Rule of the Bone
Although it features a wandering street urchin whom critics have likened to Huck Finn and Holden Caulfield, RULE OF THE BONE is ultimately neither for nor about children. Bank’s real and bitter subject is the sorry behavior of adults. The novel’s underlying premise is that the “baby-boom” generation is guilty of a terrible crime: the wholesale neglect, exploitation, and abandonment of its children.
Chappie Dorset, the book’s protagonist and first-person narrator, is clearly meant to function as a type; he represents hundreds of semiferal youths who haunt the streets, malls, and parks of the urban landscape, pimping, panhandling, thieving, dealing drugs, bartering anything and everything to survive. Yet Banks also manages the harder task of making Chappie a unique individual with his own voice—and a harrowing story to tell.
Child of a broken home, Chappie endures the sexual advances of his mother’s alcoholic boyfriend, Ken, until he reaches his breaking point and runs away. Thus begins a furtive, drug-ridden odyssey in the Adirondack region that takes Chappie (“Bone”) and Russ, another homeless boy, to the dubious shelters of a biker pad, an abandoned school bus, and the unoccupied summer house of affluent out- of-staters, which they proceed to destroy.
Unfortunately, the last part of this otherwise gripping novel strains credibility. Banks has Bone venture to Jamaica with I-Man, a middle-aged Rastafarian migrant...
(The entire section is 356 words.)
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