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Last Updated on January 12, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1032

Author: Laura Ruby (b. 1967)

First published: 2015

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Magical realism

Time of plot: Present day

Locale: Bone Gap, Illinois

Principal characters

Finn O'Sullivan, a strange teenage boy who sees things differently

Sean O'Sullivan, his older brother

Roza Solkolkowski , a visiting...

(The entire section contains 1032 words.)

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Author: Laura Ruby (b. 1967)

First published: 2015

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Magical realism

Time of plot: Present day

Locale: Bone Gap, Illinois

Principal characters

Finn O'Sullivan, a strange teenage boy who sees things differently

Sean O'Sullivan, his older brother

Roza Solkolkowski, a visiting Polish college student

Priscilla "Petey" Willis, a teenage girl

Mel Willis, her mother, the local beekeeper

Charlie Valentine, Finn's neighbor, an older man who keeps chickens

The Story

Finn O'Sullivan is liked well enough in his small town of Bone Gap, Illinois. However, his spacey personality and inability to look people in the eye often make people wonder about him. The town bullies pick on him because of it, and he struggles to build relationships as a result. Abandoned by his mother, who has run off with a chiropractor and left her sons to fend for themselves, Finn struggles with identity and acceptance. When Roza, a Polish girl who appeared in the O'Sullivan barn months earlier, is kidnapped, Finn blames himself: "What could anyone say? Two months ago, Roza had been kidnapped. Finn was the only witness. Nobody believed his story." Finn's story is simple; the two O'Sullivan boys and Roza were at a local fair when she was kidnapped. Finn was the only one with her, but no one believed him because he could not describe the man who had taken her. Self-blame, self-imposed guilt, and fear plague him as he continues to search for her.Used by permission of HarperCollins Publishers

As the novel progresses, Finn's life continues to change. He finds a mysterious horse in his barn, and when he rides the horse at night, strange things happen. He also begins a relationship with Priscilla "Petey" Willis, the homely daughter of the local beekeeper, Mel Willis. Petey is a prickly girl whom most people avoid because she has a sting. However, Finn is strangely drawn to her, and they form a bond over the horse and their respective friendships with the missing girl.

Intertwined with Finn's story is Roza's. A Polish student visiting the United States, Roza is ready to go home when she is kidnapped by a strange man. After being held captive for an undetermined amount of time in bizarre houses, she escapes by jumping out of his car and running into the cornfields near Bone Gap. She is able to hide in a barn, where Finn finds her and Sean cares for her. She stays in an apartment they own, and everyone in town, including the O'Sullivan brothers, comes to love her. When she is recaptured by the same man, everyone is concerned. Roza's story illustrates a strength of personality in a young woman who will not allow herself to be manipulated.

The story climaxes as Finn discovers not only why he sees the world differently but also that Bone Gap has been hiding "gaps just wide enough for people to slip through, or slip away, leaving only their stories behind." It is when he finds a way to enter these gaps that he is able to rescue Roza and return home a hero who is finally understood and appreciated.

Critical Evaluation

One of the main thematic threads of Bone Gap is loss. Finn and Sean have dealt with loss all of their lives. After the death of their father when they were children, their mother lost her vitality and stopped being a parent. When she met a new man, she left the boys, despite the fact that Sean was only just out of high school and Finn was just starting. As a result, Sean is continuously plagued by fears of abandonment, so when Roza shows up and quietly becomes a part of their lives, he is reluctant to become attached to her. Even Petey has experienced loss, and her fears stemming from this lead her to reject Finn when he needs her most, which almost ends their relationship.

Another major theme is that of appearances and the ways they can be deceptive. Finn's inability to describe Roza's kidnapper raises the issue of how he sees the world around him. When Petey realizes why Finn sees the world differently, this issue comes to a head. The fact that things are not always what they seem is further demonstrated when Finn discovers that Bone Gap itself teeters on the edge of another world.

These themes are illustrated partially through the use of multiple points of view in each part of the book. The novel is divided into sections by month, covering May, June, July, and August. Within the first three months, the sections are broken into shorter chapters, which use limited omniscient narration. In May, the point of view alternates between Finn and Roza, while June throws Sean and Petey into the mix. In July, Finn's neighbor Charlie gets a chapter, but Finn and Roza are again the central characters.

The book's time structure seems straightforward, moving through the summer of an unspecified year, but this four-month period includes a number of flashbacks and sidetracks that may confuse some readers. The book's main timeline follows Finn's experiences from the end of his junior year of high school through the summer. However, there are numerous instances where the timeline is less solid. In some instances, Finn's memories take readers back in time. These flashbacks are usually presented in a way that lets readers know that Finn is remembering. However, in the chapters in which Roza is the focus of the narration, the time frame is much less clear. Since Roza is kidnapped twice, once before she shows up in the O'Sullivans' barn and once after she has been with them for some time, readers must pay close attention to understand whether the chapter is a memory or a present-day experience.

Further Reading

  • Ebarvia, Tricia. "Possible Impossibilities: The Power of Magical Realism for Adolescent Readers." English Journal, vol. 106, no. 1, 2016, pp. 62–63.
  • Meloy, Maile. "Between Two Worlds." Review of Bone Gap, by Laura Ruby. New York Times Book Review, 10 May 2015, p. 24.
  • Sachs, Nina. Review of Bone Gap, by Laura Ruby. School Library Journal, Dec. 2014, p. 142. Academic Search Complete, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=99743501&site=ehost-live. Accessed 31 Jan. 2017.
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