Title: The Bone People
Author: Keri Hulme
Country: New Zealand
Pages: 450 pgs.
First sentence: He walks down the street.
The Bone People is a story about an unorthodox trinity between three people. They were nothing more than people, by themselves. Even paired, any pairing, they would have been nothing more than people by themselves. But all together, they have become the heart and muscles and mind of something perilous and new, something strange and growing and great. Together, all together, they are the instruments of change. (p.4) Kerewin Holmes, part Maori and part European, who lives alone in her Tower by the sea; Simon, a confused, turbulent but loving young boy who cannot speak; and Joe Gillayley, his brutal Maori foster parent who loves him, but reverts to brutality because he does not know how to give Simon all that he needs. When their world falls apart, each partakes in their own personal journey towards transformation, redemption and forgiveness.
As she tells the story, Keri Hulme delves into the consciousness of all three characters in a blend of myth, legend, dreams, and a harsh reality. Don't let that first sentence above deceive you. From the very beginning, The Bone People draws you in with its raw emotion and sometimes lyrical, sometimes crude language. There were times I wanted to lay down the book and cry myself to sleep, especially in the last half of the book. Yet at the end, I was left wanting more.Maori culture, while not the focus, influences everything in the novel. The writing is unique and creative, but I do fall into the camp that feels that a little bit of editing would have been useful. Other than that, it was a roller coaster of an experience reading this book.
I have watched the river and the sea for a lifetime. I have seen rivers rob soil from the roots of trees until the giants came foundering down. I have watched shores slip and perish, the channels silt and change; what was beach become a swamp and a headland tumble into the sea. An island has eroded in silent pain since my boyhood, and reefs have become islands. Yet the old people used to say, People pass away, but not the land. It remains forever. Maybe that is so. The land changes. The land continues. The sea changes. The sea remains. (p. 336)
I know about me. I am the moon's sister, a tidal child stranded on land. The sea always in my ear, a surf of eternal discontent in my blood. (p.89)