Book: Bone

BoneBone
Fae Myenne Ng
1993

This is an unusual book about a single family living mostly in San Francisco’s Chinatown. The central event of the book is the suicide of the middle daughter of the family. The story is told from the point of view of Leila, the oldest of the three sisters. The youngest lives in New York. As much as the sisters are the focus of the story, the book seems to be really about the parents, Mah and Leon, and how they deal with the suicide and each other. There are vast amounts of history, culture and information, but the story essentially focuses on just these five people.

The story is really interesting, but that isn’t what makes it a good book. What is so unique about this book is the writing and structure. The book is told backwards, starting a while after the suicide. Each chapter is previous to the one before until you are back before Ona jumped hearing about the girls’ childhoods. This format is slightly confusing at first, but the writer manages to give clues enough so that the reader catches on eventually. I liked this technique mostly because it’s not common (I’ve never read a story backwards like this before) and the plot lends itself nicely to it. It wouldn’t have been nearly as powerful a book told forwards.

My favourite part of this book was the characters themselves. They don’t change much throughout the story, but I think that’s part of the point. They are who they are and they would be who they are whether Ona jumped or not. Mah has always been the way she is. Leon always does what he does. As a reader I expect most characters to change and grow and develop throughout the story, because that’s usually what happens. Mah and Leon never do that. Leila only sort of does. That is slightly jarring, but also interesting. There are people who are like that in real life, so why shouldn’t they be in fiction too? Why shouldn’t their stories be told? It was a fascinating story, but it’s effect on Mah and Leon was the most interesting part.

I liked this book a lot, but it’s definitely not for everyone. I know many people I would never give it to, but several others that I absolutely would. If it sounds interesting, you have a good chance of liking it. If not, don’t even try. You may like it, but the chance is low. I know my husband would go nuts reading this book. It’s good, but not universal.

- Book Blog Post (First Impressions)
- Book Blog Post (Characters)
- Book Blog Post (Final Thoughts)

- Buy it from Amazon