The Bone People, published in 1984, is an unusual story of love. It is unusual in the telling, the subject matter, and the form of love that the story depicts. This is in no way a romance; it is filled with violence, fear, and twisted emotions. At the story's core, however, are three people who struggle very hard to figure out what love is and how to find it.
Hulme won New Zealand's Pegasus Prize for Literature (1984) for The Bone People. Then the book went on to win the prestigious Booker Prize (1985), a coveted literary award. The Bone People, which began as a short story, took Hulme twelve years to write. As of 2006, it was the only novel that she has published.
The Bone People has been praised for its story and for the way it is written, which is said to reflect the intonation and style of the Maori language. The story is, in fact, filled with allusions to the Maori culture and many of the challenges that the Maori people face, those common struggles caused by the colonization of an indigenous people. At the same time, however, the problems that are presented in this story have universal relevance. The story attempts to answer questions about how one heals deep-seated, emotional pain, how one becomes true to oneself, and how one finds love.