Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison


“My heart broke all over again. I wanted my life back, my mama, but I knew I would never have that. The child I had been was gone with the child she had been. We were new people, and we didn’t know each other anymore”

I knew when I picked this book up that it would be harrowing, and generally I tend to stay away from books about child abuse because to be honest, it just makes me feel so furious and helpless that it makes the book impossible to read for enjoyment, which generally is what I like to do. However, I also understand that turning away from such stories is to pull wool over my own eyes and deny that these things happen, especially when these books are written from personal experiences and so I also feel a kind of responsibility to read them at the same time.

This story is about a young girl called ‘Bone’ a nickname she’s had for as long as she can remember. When we first meet Bone she is no more than a baby, born of a very young, unwed mother. Right from the beginning of the book, Bone’s mother Anney stubbornly does everything she can to validate her daughters birth, but no matter how much she persists she can’t scrub the title of ‘bastard’ from her firstborn daughters birth records. It is this small, yet powerful stigma that spurs Anney on, pushing her into a second marriage in the hope of providing a legitimate family for her now two daughters. But even with the best of intentions, circumstances continue to deny the Boatwright women the stability and contentment that they crave and deserve, and soon Bone finds herself lost in a spiral of every kind of abuse a person can be subject to, not just at the hands of her stepfather, but also at the hands of her mother, who repeatedly turns a blind eye to it, placing more value in the appearance of happiness than the reality of it.

This book is uncomfortable. Everything that happens is told to us through Bone’s perspective, and her perspective is so hopeful and self-deprecating that it just broke my heart from beginning to end. Especially at the end.



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