Rule of the Bone: A Novel

Rule of the Bone: A Novel

by Russell Banks
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Rule of the Bone: A Novel by Russell Banks

In the tradition Huckleberry Finn and The Catcherin the Rye, Russell Banks’s quintessential novel of adisaffected homeless youth living on the edge of society “redefines theyoung modern anti-hero. . . . Rule of the Bone has its own culture andlanguage, and Bone is sure to become a beloved character for generations” (SanFrancisco Chronicle). Witha compelling, off-beat protagonist evocative of Holden Caulfield and QuentinColdwater, and a narrative voice that masterfully and naturally captures thenuances of a modern vernacular, Banks’s haunting and powerful novel is anindisputable—and unforgettable—modern classic.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060927240
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 03/27/1996
Series: Harper Perennial
Edition description: Paperback
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 124,342
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.90(d)
Lexile: 1530L (what's this?)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

Russell Banks, twice a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, is 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 has received numerous prizes and awards, including the Common Wealth Award for Literature. He lives in upstate New York and Miami, Florida.

Date of Birth:

March 28, 1940

Place of Birth:

Newton, Massachusetts

Read an Excerpt

Just Don'tTouch Anything

You'll probably think I'm making a lot of this up just to make me sound better than I really am or smarter or even luckier but I'm not. Besides, a lot of the things that've happened to me in my life so far which I'll get to pretty soon'll make me sound evil or just plain dumb or the tragic victim of circumstances. Which I know doesn't exactly prove I'm telling the truth but if I wanted to make myself look better than I am or smarter or the master of my own fate so to speak I could. The fact is the truth is more interesting than anything I could make up and that's why I'm telling it in the first place.

Anyhow my life got interesting you might say the summer I turned fourteen and was heavy into weed but I didn't have any money to buy it with so I started looking around the house all the time for things I could sell but therewasn't much. My mother who was still like my best friend then and my stepfather Ken had this decent house that my mother'd got in the divorce from my real father about ten years ago and about that she just says she got a mortgage not a house and about him she doesn't say much at all although my grandmother does. My mom and Ken both had these cheesy jobs and didn't own anything you could rob at least not without them noticing right away it was gone. Ken worked as a maintenance man out at the airbase which is like being a janitor only he said he was a building services technician and my mom was a bookkeeper at the clinic which is also a nothing job looking at a computer screen all day and punching numbers into it.

It actually started with me roaming around the house after school looking for something thatwasn't boring, porn books or videos maybe, or condoms. Anything. Plus who knows, they might have their own little stash of weed. My mom and especially Ken were seriously into alcohol then but maybe they aren't as uptight as they seem, I'm thinking. Anything is possible. The house was small, four rooms and a bathroom, a mobile home on cinderblocks like a regular house only without a basement or garage and no attic and I'd lived there with my mom and my real dad from the time I was three until he left which happened when I was five and after that with my mom and Ken who legally adopted me and became my stepfather up until now, so I knew the place like I knew the inside of my mouth.

I thought I'd poked through every drawer and looked into every closet and searched under every bed and piece of furniture in the place. I'd even pulled out all these old Reader's Digest novels that Ken had found out at the base and brought home to read someday but mainly just to look good in the livingroom and flipped them open one by one looking for one of those secret compartments that you can cut into the pages with a razor and hide things. Nothing. Nothing new, I mean. Except for some old photograph albums of my grandmother's that my mom had that I found in a box on the top shelf of the linen closet. My mom'd showed them to me a few years ago and I'd forgotten probably because they were mostly pictures of people I didn't know like my mom's cousins and aunts and uncles but when I saw them again this time I remembered once looking for pictures of my father from when he was still alive and well and living here in Au Sable and finding only one of him. It was of him and my mom and his car and I'd studied it like it was a secret message because it was the only picture of him I'd ever seen. You'dthought Grandma at least would've kept a few other snaps but no.

There was though this stack of letters tied with a ribbon in the same box as the albums that my father'd written to my mom for a few months after he left us. I'd never read them before and they turned out pretty interesting. The way it sounded my father was defending himself against my mom's accusations that he'd left us for this female named Rosalie who my mom said had been his girlfriend for years but he was claiming that Rosalie'd only been a normal friend of his at work and so on. He had good handwriting, neat and all the letters slanted the same way. Rosalie didn't matter to him anymore, he said. She never had. He said he wanted to come back. I almost felt sorry for him. Except I didn't believe him.

Plus I didn't need the letters my mom'd written to him in order to know her side of the story because even though I was only a little kid when this all happened I've got memories. If he was such a great guy and all how come he split on us and never sent any money or even tried to be in touch with his own son. My grandmother said just don't think about him anymore, he's probably living it up in some foreign country in the Caribbean or in jail for drugs. She goes, You don't have a father, Chappie. Forget him. She was tough, my grandmother, and I used to try and be like her when it came to thinking about my real father. I don't think she knew my mom'd saved my dad's letters. I bet my stepfather didn't know either.

Anyhow this one afternoon I came home from school early because I'd cut the last two periods which was just as well since I didn't have my homework anyhow and both teachers were the kind who boot you out of the class if you come in empty-handed, like it's a punishment that'll make you do better next time. I rummaged around in the fridge and made a bologna and cheese sandwich and drank one of my stepfather's beers and went into the livingroom and watched MTV for a while and played with the cat Willie who got spooked and took off when I accidentally flipped him on his head.

Then I started making my rounds. I really wanted some weed. It had been a couple of days since I'd been high and whenever I went that long I'd get jumpy and restless and kind of irritated at the world, feeling like everything and everyone was out to get me and I was no good and a failure at life which was basically true. A little smoke though and all that irritation and nervousness and my wicked low self-esteem immediately went away. They say weed makes you paranoid but for me it was the opposite.

I'd about given up on finding something in the house that I could rob--a personal possession that could be hocked like the TV or the VCR or the stereo would be instantly noticed when it was gone and all the rest of their stuff was boring household goods that you couldn't sell anyhow like electric blankets and a waffle iron and a clock radio. My mom didn't have any jewels that were worth anything except her wedding ring from my stepfather which she made a big deal out of but it looked like a WalMart's ring to me and besides she always had it on. They didn't even have any decent CDs, all their music was seventies stuff, disco fever and easy listening and suchlike, on cassettes. The only kind of robbing I thought was possible was big time like stealing my stepfather's van while he was asleep for example and I wasn't ready for that.

I was taking one more look into their bedroom closet, down on my hands and knees and groping past my mother's shoes into the darkness when I came to what I'd thought last time was just some folded blankets. But when I felt into the blankets I realized there was something large and hard inside. I pulled out the whole thing and unwrapped what turned out to be these two black briefcases that I'd never seen before.

I sat cross-legged on the floor and put the first briefcase on my lap thinking it was probably locked until it snapped open which surprised me but then the real surprise came when I lifted the lid and saw a .22 automatic rifle broken down into three parts just lying there with a rod and cleaning kit and a box of shells. It wasn't hard to fit the parts together, it even had a scope like an assassin's rifle and pretty soon I was into a Lee Harvey Oswald trip standing by the bedroom window and brushing the curtain away with the tip of the barrel and aiming through the scope at stuff on the street going Pow! Pow! I blasted a couple of dogs and blew away the mailman and nailed the drivers of cars going by for a while.

Then I remembered the other briefcase and went back to the closet and sat down and opened it. Inside are all these Baggies, thirty or forty of them filled with coins, mostly old quarters and Indian head nickels and even some weird-looking pennies with dates from way back in the early 1900s. Excellent discovery. I figure the rifle must belong to Ken and he stashes it in this briefcase on account of my mom always saying she's scared of guns and the coins too, I'm thinking, because if they were my mom's I would've known it since she pretty much told me everything in those days. Besides she wasn't the hobby type. Ken though was definitely the kind of guy who would have a cool gun and never show it to me or even tell me about it, plus he collected things like exotic beer cans and souvenir coffee mugs from the various theme parks they'd gone to and put them out on shelves where anyone could see although he was always telling me not to touch them because I never left things the way they were which is basically true.

I took the rifle apart and put it back in the briefcase and then I took a couple of coins from each of about six Baggies so he wouldn't know any were missing if he happened to check. Afterwards I wrapped the briefcases back in the blanket and put the bundle behind my mother's shoes in the closet where it had come from. Rule of the Bone. Copyright © by Russell Banks. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Table of Contents

1 Just Don't Touch Anything
2 All Is Forgiven
3 Canadians
4 Adirondack Iron
5 Presumed Dead
6 Skull & Bones
7 The Bone Rules
8 The Soul Assassins
9 School Days
10 Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety-Jig
11 Red Rover
12 Over the River and Through the Woods
13 Mister Yesterday
14 Crossing the Bar
15 Sunsplashed
16 Starport
17 Happy Birthday to the Bone
18 Bone Goes Native
19 Second Thoughts
20 Bone Phones Home
21 Bone's Revenge
22 Shipping Out

Customer Reviews

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Rule of the Bone 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 46 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Uncanny look inside of the teenage mind with a wild ride to boot
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am reading this book right now. Almost done with it. As i was reading this book i couldnt put it down. it kept getting more interesting it was such a great book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was great! You go alot of places you dont expect to go. Excitin and a view into the battles youths are challenged with.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Rule of the Bone is an incredible book. We read it in my English class, and I couldn't put it down. I finished it long before the class did and was dissapointed when there was no more to read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
this book may seem long and some might say that it starts out slow. but it doesnt go where you think it will go. its definitely unpredictable. i got completely lost in the pages. fell in love with the story. i felt like i could really relate even though im not a troubled teen haha. its a must read. if you can appreciate a good story...just do it.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Rule fo the Bone is by far the best book I have ever read. It was interesting while still being somewhat down to earth. It may not be appropiate for everyone, but the profanity and other diversity added to the novel was actually almost unnoticable. I picked up the book because it looked different and I became so interested in it I forgot what was going on around me. From the beginning to the end, Russell Banks kept the story going without a dull moment. Thinking back, he covered just about every topic and ending up in a completely different place with a completely differnet feeling. This was not the typical teen story at all but was still apealing, which is probably why it interested me so much. I have never read a book like it, and probably never will. I also didn't find it 'whiney' in the least. The reviews and summery didn't even begin to cover the emotional and mental aspects. Banks' other novels don't compare ,however, he is now my favorite author and writes so uniquely i forget it's not real. I recommend Rule fo the Bone for anyone who is not interested by many other books, and doesn't mind going places that other writers are afraid to go.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Great story. The usaul: coming of age for older teens Not so usual: Unique way in which Banks points out the intelligence and innocene of Chappie, the main character and adventurous nature of the story. Chappie is not whinny, he's real. He's young and Banks portrays this well. As flawed as Chappie is, he's also what many of us should be. Banks creates a character full of contridications, making it possible for us to disagree and dislike Chappie, but unable to deny the fact that he has something that much of this world lacks. It may not always be presented straighforwardly thorugh specific words, but it's there for us all to find. As in any good coming of age story, the character doesn't just go through his or her experiences for the heck of it, they do it to teach us something, to show us something, whether we want to see it or not.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was one of the best books that I have ever read. I thought that anyone over the age of 13 should read this book. It is kinda strong for kids under that age because there are lots of bad things in it. but I recommend reading this book. That kid who said it was bad was definitly wrong, in my opinion.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book my freshman year in high school. I hated reading but I chose this book for silent reading in class. I didn't know much about the book by reading the back cover but I thought I could sleep thrugh it and make up a book report because my teacher never read it. Well I was wrong. I couldn't sleep through it because I was to interested in it. This is my favorite book. I could relate to it because I was around Chappies age. When I gave my book report my teacher became so interested due to my enthusiasm about it, she bought herself a copy to read over summer. Great book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I wanted to like this book, I really did, but unfortunatly I didn't. The book is supposed to make you empathise with Chappie, but it came off as whining and crying, he might as well have just said: 'Please feel sorry for me'. There was too much self-pity in the character, and not too much to feel sorry for.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book is awsome, i likedit alot and i dont even like to read at all. and chappie has a mohawk, thats cool. i think its a great book that shows alot about teenage life and getting into drugs and not having people that understand or at least try to understand what you are going through. it also shows that everyone needs love and when you get close to someone they leave you, it sucks. but the truth of the matter is that 'rule of the bone' is agreat book, that once you begin reading you wont want to put the book down. and i love guys out there should sit down and read this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm a pretty avid reader and usually enjoy whatever it is I read, I'm no critic or literary expert...i tend to read simply for enjoyment and to escape. That being said, this book has had a profound effect on me, I read it in 3 days, and re-read it a week later. It's funny, sad, exciting, and most importantly, real. I strongly suggest this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book pretty much changed how i feel about my life right now, and the search to find i-self. I put myself right in Bone's body and really connected with every emotion that he feels throughout his journey. The character are all so realistic and so amazing. I immediately read the book again it's so bloody brilliant, if you don't read this, you're truly missing out.