Category: Feeling for Bones

A richly-tailored debut

I brought home a little treasure from ICRS in the form of a debut novel by Bethany Pierce. Feeling for Bones, pubbed by Moody and just out this spring, is a wonderfully-crafted story of the illusion of control in the life of an anorexic 16-year-old.

Pierce, who teaches English at Miami University, knows her stuff. Her prose is rich with detail, metaphor and unused turns of phrase. Told from the protag’s point-of-view, Feeling for Bones, ushers the reader into the shaky world of the disordered eater; a world where food really has nothing to do with the eater’s troubled soul.

The main character Olivia is deeply likeable, flawed but authentic, and she moves about in a family setting that rings true. Life isn’t always easy, even for a pastor’s family. Maybe especially for a pastor’s family. We all search for ways to manage emotionally what we can’t manage physically. Olivia uses and abuses the exercise of eating, turning it into a strange art form; an expression of what life is like for a girl faced with a major move, the loss of the familiar, the ache of a hurting & demoted pastor-father, the uncertainty of living in a dangerous world, and the prospect of a first romance.

I liked how the story was not about anorexia. It was about a girl who struggles to control her universe and resists surrender to God. The writing is fat with lovely descriptions like this, taken from a scene late in the book when Olivia has at last removed the glossy magazine pages of beautiful, skinny women from her bedroom wall. The magazine pieces lie in shreds on the floor.

Mom appeared in the doorway. I was washing my face.

“Thank you,” she whispered. I looked down. In her hands, she’d gathered a pile of crumpled papers from my floor. White and curled, they blew about in her palms like bits of ash. My little paper kingdoms.”

Very much character-driven, Feeling for Bones is a great pick for those who like Jodi Piccoult, Anita Shreve and Lisa Samson. The pace is measured, very nearly relaxed, but that allows you to enjoy the subtle and lovely artistry in the words.

Recommended!