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Rule of the Bone

Posted on

Rule of the Bone

Current Status:
In Season
Russell Banks

We gave it a B

Could Huckleberry Finn survive in late-20th-century America? Rule of the Bone, about a runaway teen, always seems to keep one eye on Twain’s classic. The narrator, 14-year-old Bone, is a small-time drug dealer in bleak upstate New York. His voice wavers poignantly between innocence and sad sophistication. He knows that ”if you’re not worth the paperwork adults won’t hassle you.” He imagines all the missing kids pictured on milk cartons ”living together in some squat like in Arizona.” Wry and resourceful, he outwits a gang of bikers and a kiddie-porn producer. So far, very good. But then he flies to Jamaica with a wise old Rastafarian, and murky melodrama takes over. An increasingly earnest Bone tries to convince us he’s having a learning experience when he’s really trapped in a Caribbean episode of Miami Vice, full of improbable sex, drug deals, and mayhem. Pretty soon he’s so grown up, he’s ready for college. Huck Finn would have been appalled. The reader is merely skeptical. B