Rule of the Bone by Russell Banks

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When we first meet him, Chappie is a punked-out teenager living with his mother and abusive stepfather in an upstate New York trailer park. During this time, he slips into drugs and petty crime. Rejected by his parents, out of school and in trouble with the police, he claims for himself a new identity as a permanent outsider; he gets a crossed-bones tattoo on his arm, and takes the name "Bone."

He finds dangerous refuge with a group of biker-thieves, and then hides in the boarded-up summer house of a professor and his wife. He finally settles in an abandoned schoolbus with Rose, a child he rescues from a fast-talking pedophile. There Bone meets I-Man, an exiled Rastafarian, and together they begin a second adventure that takes the reader from Middle America to the ganja-growing mountains of Jamaica. It is an amazing journey of self-discovery through a world of magic, violence, betrayal and redemption.


About Russell Banks

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Russell Banks is the former president of Cities of Refuge North America, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His work has been translated into twenty languages and has received numerous international prizes and awards. Banks lives in upstate New York, and he was the New York State author from 2004–2008.
Published January 1, 1994 by Harper Perennial. 390 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, History, Young Adult. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Rule of the Bone

Kirkus Reviews

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Amid occasional philosophizings about the difference between the illegal and the criminal (drugs seem generally to be the first, not second), Chappie changes his name to Bone (he gets crossed bones tattooed on his arm), after which there's a period of hiding, a second encounter with a child porno...

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Publishers Weekly

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A change in setting halfway through this ambitious novel by the respected author of Continental Drift and Affliction diminishes its effectiveness to a certain degree. The first half, a starkly realist

May 01 1995 | Read Full Review of Rule of the Bone

Publishers Weekly

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Yet one finishes the book with indelible sympathy for tough-guy Bone, touched by his loneliness, fear and desperation, and having absorbed Banks's message: that (as he said recently), society's failure to save its children is ``the main unrecognized tragedy of our time.'' 100,000 first printing;

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Entertainment Weekly

An increasingly earnest Bone tries to convince us he's having a learning experience when he's really trapped in a Caribbean episode of Miami Vice, full of improbable sex, drug deals, and mayhem.

May 26 1995 | Read Full Review of Rule of the Bone

Entertainment Weekly

Russell Banks' coming-of-age novel Rule of the Bone — written in the voice of a 14-year-old drug dealer in bleak upstate New York — wavers poignantly between innocence and sad sophistication.

May 03 1996 | Read Full Review of Rule of the Bone

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