I stumbled across Bastard out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison in a used book store a few months back I'm not sure what drew me to the book, per se, but the title sounded familiar and the book has won accolade and was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1992. This book was heartbreaking, amazing, shocking, touching and difficult. The book is about a little girl named Bone (actually named Ruth Ann, but nicknamed "Bone" shortly after birth). She is born to an unwed teenage mother and thus labelled "Bastard" on her birth certificate. The book follows Bone's growing up and "coming of age" of sorts in a rural South Carolina back-country town in what most likely would be described as a poor white trash family. Bone is raised by her Mama, and is close to several of her Mama's siblings, such as Aunt Raylene, Uncle Earle and Aunt Ruth. She has myriad cousins and a little sister named Reese, by her Mama's first marriage. Her Mama's second marriage, to Daddy Glen, causes Bone to experience a lifetime of horrible things in a few short years. Mama is looking for familial stability, and someone to love her unconditionally and, as such, turns a blind eye to Daddy Glen's physical, emotional, and sexual abuses of Bone. Mama, instead, tries to keep Bone away from Daddy Glen by sending her to her siblings' houses for as much time as she can. This book addresses many, many things, including childhood abuse (obviously), the role of family, however f-ed up it may be, self hatred, familial hatred, anger, resentment of society. Bone has to make her own way in the world from a very young age and does so with such an insight as to what is going on in the world and in her life. The book is narrated by Bone in such a youthful way, non-judgmental, yet forming opinions as she explores some of the experiences she goes through. This book was heartbreaking yet exuberant, shocking, yet expected. I could not put it down and I could not pick it up. It addresses some of the darkest secrets of families, society and tells such truths, it makes your jaw clench. The author writes in an almost poetic fashion, comparing things you've never thought to compare before. This is a beautifully written, tragic novel. As an example, I've copied one of my more memorable passages in the book.
"Little Earle would lope like a crippled crawfish, angling to the side, swaying unsteadily, and giggling his own wet croupy babble. The boys would laugh at him, Granny would just smile. Oblivious and happy, Little Earle would pound his fists on Grey's shoulders and then twirl himself around to run all out toward Granny, Temple and Patsy Ruth. Naked, dimpled all over, fat and brown and wide, his stubborn little body bulged with determination, his little-boy prick bounced like a rubber toy between his bowlegged thighs as he whooped and ran, bumping his head on Granny's hip. He was like a windup toy spinning itself out, and his delight only increased when everyone started laughing at him as he jumped up again after falling plop on is behind next to the tub of snap beans."