By Dorothy Allison – The West Windsor Library’s annual book sale is where I stock up on books I should have read a long time ago. Set in Greenville, South Carolina, this debut novel, published in 1992, was probably somewhat more shocking as a tale of parental oversight and abuse at the time, and so beautifully written it’s no surprise it was a National Book Award finalist. It remains a powerful and empathetic portrayal of class and gender differences in the 1950’s.
Prior to this book, Allison had published two volumes of poetry sharing the same main title, The Women Who Hate Me, and it’s interesting how she’s able to tamp that back and stay in the voice of the pre-teen first-person narrator, Ruth Anne Boatwright, whom everyone calls Bone, even as she reveals great depth and precision of language. Bone both lovingly and mercilessly describes the hard-drinking, violence-prone Boatwright men and the frustrated and hard-working Boatwright women. They may be poor—“trash” people call them and they call themselves—but they are tender toward Bone and her only thin protection against her mother’s new husband.
You may be familiar with the 1996 movie version of the novel, but I haven’t seen it. Anjelica Huston directed, and it starred Jennifer Jason Leigh, Ron Eldard, Christina Ricci, and Dermot Mulroney. Jena Malone played Bone. A 100% critics rating from Rotten Tomatoes!