Thursday, October 11, 2007

Bastard Out of Carolina: A Review by Elizabeth Stark

This is the twelfth of a many-part series written by the staff and editors of Fringe Magazine, who will be reviewing books from the Pool as part of the 25 Books Project.

Dorothy Allison's
devastating novel, Bastard Out of Carolina, was the last fiction book I read before entering journalism school. The day I started reading it, two different strangers on the train came up to me and said, "that's a really good book," and Bastard delivered.

The novel falls into the Bildungsroman category, following Ruth Ann Boatwright, nicknamed "Bone," who, like the author, was born to a 15-year-old unmarried waitress in South Carolina. The first person voice is compelling and takes the reader inside poor white rural culture.

Although the novel is about abuse, Alison writes against stereotype, keeping Bone's pedophiliac stepfather, Daddy Glen, looming ominously in the background for most of the book, which keeps the story from lapsing into the sentimental. This authorial choice makes the subject of the book Bone's early life, rather than the abuse, which shapes, but does not define her.

Due to the subject matter, it's not the easiest read, but the passion of this book makes its unpleasantness well worth it.

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