Author: Laura Ruby

Publisher: Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins)

ISBN: 978-0-06-231762-9

I had never heard of Bone Gap, Laura Ruby's 2015 novel until a young friend pressed it on me as one of the best books she'd read all year. Shame on me because the book was a National Book Award Finalist, a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year, and wan a number of other Best Book of the Year awards.

Bone Gap is the name of a small Illinois farm town. Eighteen-year-old Finn lives with his EMT older brother Sean on the remains of the family farm. Their father is dead; their mother ran off to Oregon with an orthodontist. Some time before the story begins, a lovely young Polish woman named Roza had shown up in the corn field, fleeing something. She lived (chastely) with Finn and Sean long enough to demonstrate almost supernatural skill at growing vegetables, for Sean to fall in love with her, and because of her beauty and personality to become popular with the townspeople. She's been kidnapped. Finn saw the kidnapper, but he cannot for the life of him describe the man's face to the local cop. That he can not does not endure him to Sean, the cop, or the townspeople.

After a first chapter to introduce Finn and the situation in Bone Gap, Ruby shifts point of view. We are now with Rosa in what could be another universe. One without another person with whom she can connect. The only other person is her kidnapper who asks repeatedly:"Are you in love with me yet?" Roza has become Rapunzel locked away in a tower (although at first it seems a suburban American house, but that's only at first).

Part One chapters alternate between Finn's and Roza's point of view as we learn about them and their situations. Finn grows attracted to Priscilla, a beekeeper about his age, who because of her looks has never attracted male attention. In Part Two, Ruby adds chapters from Sean's and Priscilla's point of views to those of Finn and Roza. Part Three resolves the questions the book has provoked.

So Bone Gap is an interesting amalgam of verisimilitude and fantasy, or realism and fairy tale. Ordinarily, I don't care for such a mixture; I like my realism to be realistic, my fantasy to be fantastic. Bone Gap is the exception, perhaps because Ruby has created such interesting characters. The story held my interest and there was not a point where I was jolted out of my willing suspension of my disbelief. 

In addition, Ruby writes so well. Here's the first description of Roza's kidnapper: "But he would smile that bland, pleasant smile—the smile of an uncle, a teacher, a clerk, all those men with all those teeth—a smile that made him all the more terrifying." And here's a crowd watching Priscilla retrieve an escaped bee swarm: "Their voices washed over Finn the way they always did. Like a strange sort of choir music, one voice blending into the next, the refrains so familiar that he could have mouthed the words along with them." I also recommend studying her dialogue, which reveals character and advances the story.

For readers who have young friends, I suggest you introduce them to Bone Gap. But you might want to read it yourself first.