Rule of the Bone: A Novel (Paperback)
In the tradition Huckleberry Finn and The Catcher in the Rye, Russell Banks’s quintessential novel of a disaffected homeless youth living on the edge of society “redefines the young modern anti-hero. . . . Rule of the Bone has its own culture and language, and Bone is sure to become a beloved character for generations” (San Francisco Chronicle).
When we first meet him, Chappie is a punked-out teenager living with his mother and abusive stepfather in an upstate New York trailer park. During this time, he slips into drugs and petty crime. Rejected by his parents, out of school and in trouble with the police, he claims for himself a new identity as a permanent outsider; he gets a crossed-bones tattoo on his arm, and takes the name "Bone."
He finds dangerous refuge with a group of biker-thieves, and then hides in the boarded-up summer house of a professor and his wife. He finally settles in an abandoned school bus with Rose, a child he rescues from a fast-talking pedophile. There Bone meets I-Man, an exiled Rastafarian, and together they begin a second adventure that takes the reader from Middle America to the ganja-growing mountains of Jamaica. It is an amazing journey of self-discovery through a world of magic, violence, betrayal and redemption.
With a compelling, off-beat protagonist evocative of Holden Caulfield and Quentin Coldwater, and a narrative voice that masterfully and naturally captures the nuances of a modern vernacular, Banks’s haunting and powerful novel is an indisputable—and unforgettable—modern classic.
Russell Banks, twice a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, was one of America’s most prestigious fiction writers, a past president of the International Parliament of Writers, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His work has been translated into twenty languages and he received numerous prizes and awards, including the Common Wealth Award for Literature. He died in January 2023 at the age of eighty-two.
“It’s been too long since this country had a convincing coming-of-age novel. . . . Rule of the Bone, a working class Catcher in the Rye for post P.C. is a tome for the times. It should be required reading.” — Philadelphia Weekly
“Bone . . . redefines the young modern anti-hero. . . . Banks’ ear is perfectly attuned to teenage vernacular. . . . Rule of the Bone has its own culture and language, and Bone is sure to become a beloved character for generations. As with Holden Caulfield, we wish we could save Bone, but we come to hope that his purity of vision may somehow save us.” — San Francisco Chronicle
"Intoxicating and unsparing. . . a romance for a world fast running out of room for childhood." — New York Times Book Review
“Rule of the Bone is a work of can-do genius. It has the good heavy-metal drive of basement rock bands. It’s great, self-conscious pop.” — New York magazine
“Russell Banks is a writer of extraordinary power.” — Gail Caldwell