5. Bone Dance

by Martha Brooks

"Life is full of surprises, and sometimes the good and the bad get all bunched up together." says Alexandra's grandfather.

Yet another book I've read that is written by a Canadian. This one is an out-of-print coming of age young adult novel . It's a good one. It's got all the stuff young adults seek in these novels, but it is more challenging than the average.

One note of worthiness: most young adult novels are exclusively written for one gender, but Bone Dance has two protaginists, one male and one female, both Native American, whose paths cross as they follow their youthful concerns. And it's not a romance. It's more about coming to an understanding of the meaning of the land (burial ground of ancestors, other living and non-living things having lives and will s of their own, etc.), of the nature of history and memory.

The novel begs the question: do objects in nature literally contain our ancestors, or is this a matter of perception, acts of memory and imagination on the part of the beholder of the object? Are the ancients buried on the land still there, still communicating, or is the land artifacts containing history that triggers memory.

It seems to me that the land, much like a literary text, is a catalyst for the imagination. "Ghosts" or remnants of ancestors, of the Ancients, linger on the land for a very long time. Objects such as a dug up skull prove that the Anceints are still present, but WHY they are present, WHAT they're presence is trying to communicate is a matter for interpretation for which memory of the Ancients (passed on culturally) plays a big role.

The Romantics thought this way, as well. Objects don't convey meaning. It's our perception of those objects that give them meaning. A Romantic would argue that if the suffering adolescent Lonny looks closely enough, if he peers deeply and honestly enough into these objects (ghosts, the land) that haunt him, he'll witness himself, his own guilt, regret, fear, hope, etc. It just so happens that maturity corresponds with this kind of seeking.

I think Martha Brooks sees things similarly, although she gives "the other" more credit that the Romantics did. On page 51, the narrator says, "When Lonny turned twelve, the ghosts went away. He wasn't exactly sure what mad ethem do that... The shadowy figures left the house. He imagined them floating back to Medicine Bluff." This is a sort of combination of the "non human-made world" and the imagination. Lonny's reality is comprised of Lonny's contribution and those of his peers, as well as those came before them (i.e. ghosts). But the question ultimately is what meaning Lonny decides to give to his reality. This is a good coming-of-age novel.

Nice read. Much better than the typical male-oriented YA nnovel about cheesey test sof strength and courage or teh felame counterpart about emotions and being understood. Thsi one is very different.

Too bad it's out of print...

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