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Best Books Ever #2

Keri Hulme's 1983 Booker Prize-winning novel The Bone People opens with a dense bit of prose poetry. Images and sentences that leave an impact, if not a lot of clarity. If this book had not come into my life by recommendation from a writer friend (thanks Megan Doney!), I may not have made it past the prologue. Though I do love poetry, with my fiction I am a firm believer in the tenet I learned from A.J. Verdelle: Clarity is non-negotiable. I prefer to have beautiful language that falls on you, around you without making the reader confused.

That said, as soon as the first chapter of The Bone People opened with clear (still beautiful) language, I was hooked. Despite the fact that the story gives a harrowing look at domestic violence, there is such beauty within. Such a curious look at the Maori culture. Not only is Hulme's language precise and gorgeous, her development of the characters leaves a lasting impact, making you want to cling to the book until the very end. And then you reread the challenging prologue and understand "the tide-washed child", "the wall, high and hard and stone".

The Bone People is not an easy go, no summer beach read. But if you love words, love that tug of raw emotion in your stories, take the time to visit with Kerewin and Simon. You will likely learn to love them as I did.

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