In one hand, Jesse Breedlove holds a bottle of Cuervo Gold—or what’s left of it—in the other, the shovel with which he has just unearthed the bones of a small girl buried in the cellar of a Catholic church in Omaha, Nebraska. So begins Breedlove’s odyssey across the literal and mythical landscapes of America, bearing the finely articulated body he has uncovered, the bones that would neither rest nor, in their restless eloquence, let him remain silent. Through the heart of the United States this mover of bones encounters people who live on the margins, geographically and emotionally, and who find that his presence and his plight summon their voices. Rumors surface and reports multiply as the lonely, the addicted, the isolated, the damned, the pure of heart, and the holy sane speak. From the dark and distant edges of society, they bear witness—sometimes directly, sometimes obliquely—to what the mover of bones and his burden mean.
Defiler, redeemer, sinner, or saint—Breedlove is the stuff myths are made of, and The Mover of Bones, the first of the Tall Grass Trilogy of novels by the remarkably gifted Robert Vivian, evokes a collective dream of the heartland.
Robert Vivian’s stories, poems, and essays have appeared in numerous publications, and his plays have been produced in New York City. He is the author of the award-winning book Cold Snap as Yearning (available in a Bison Books edition) and teaches English and creative writing at Alma College in Michigan.
Mover of Bones 5 out of 5based on
More than 1 year ago
Janitor Jesse Breedlove digs up the bones of a murdered girl in the basement of a church. Why is he doing it? Is he going to find the murderer? Will he find her family? These would be the questions answered in an ordinary novel but “The Mover of Bones”, thankfully, is no ordinary novel. Instead Breedlove gently puts the bones in the back of his pickup truck and goes on what one character calls “a rock-n-roll tour” traveling across the country where he encounters a variety of people, many living on the edge of society who seem destined to meet Breedlove and his mysterious cargo: bones “excavated so that others could feel the shock of her purity.” The novel is told through the voices of the 16 people who are touched, soothed, helped, and healed as a result of their Breedlove experience. Inspired by Gustav Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth), author Robert Vivian succeeds in creating a symphonic feel to the novel. Indeed the very sound running throughout the book is the high-pitched tone of the girl’s bones “singing”. Each chapter or “movement” features a character in some frame of longing/loss/disappointment/desire. Some of these voices (John Clearwater, Joshua Tidbowl) have the urgent thump of an insistent bass, determined to make us hear his message. Other voices (Mrs. Clyde J. Parker, Lizzie Vicek, Missy Sanders) are hauntingly ethereal, both comforting and heartbreaking at the same time. All are written with shining, masterful prose and a well-observed vulnerability that will make the reader see that we carry each of these characters, in some form, within all of us. Many times the writing brought tears to my eyes. “If I could show them how much I love them and how much their love means to me,” Missy says in her chapter, “they could not hear it with human ears or see it with their eyes, but I stand in the middle of their suffering anyway and they do not know that I am here.” I highly recommend this book but with one note of warning: this is a book that will challenge you. Several of Vivian’s characters take hard looks at the world, describing what may very well be the experience of your own everyday existence, and they ask, “What the f*** are we doing here?” If you recognize that question, if you realize what these characters are talking about is within you, how in the world will you answer it for yourself?