Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Shape of Bones

Title:  The Shape of Bones
Author:  Daniel Galera (author). Alison Entrekin (translator)
Publication Information:  Penguin Press. 2017. 240 pages.
ISBN:  1594205485 / 978-1594205484

Book Source:  I received this book through the Penguin First to Read program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "No terrain is impossible for the Urban Cyclist."

Favorite Quote:  "Little by little, through small actions of the sort, maybe it was possible to gradually become someone else, someone not as quiet, who was able to incorporate into the plot of his own life the exquisite violence of comics, the virility and magnetism of his favorite movie heroes, the rugged ease of the actions and words of someone ... who embodied like no one else some kind of obscure idea to which Hermano aspired."

The book description, if you notice, very carefully names no characters. That is both the foundation and the confusion of this story. The story is told in different time periods. The book begins on a young man in his childhood neighborhood. He is risk taker and a thrill seeker, navigating the world of "urban cycling" and his world of friends, bullies, girls, dares, and a childhood in the neighborhood streets of Port Alegre.

Next we meet a man - a surgeon, a husband, a friend, and a father. He too is a risk taker and a thrill seeker. He is contemplating a mountain climbing expedition with his best friend; their proposed challenge is one of the least explored and most dangerous climbing destinations. He seems to have a lot going for him in life - family, friendship, and career. Yet, something is amiss, and he is constantly seeking.

The book moves back and forth between past and present at the beginning with no connection drawn between the two. The names, places, and relationships are confusing. It is also hard to determine which people and places to pay attention to because it's unclear who and what will come up again in a different time period later in the story. The focus in the reading becomes keeping the story straight.

Finally, I realize the connection without it being explained and then can focus on the crux of the story. Do we ever outgrow, escape, get over, move forward from the scars on our childhood? The answer, I hope, is yes. Those scars become a part of who we are, but hopefully, so do other things. This book is about a man who is defined by a childhood moment. Now, decades later, he may be a father himself, but that moment still holds him captive.

Understanding this connection helps connect some of the dots. The relationship between past and present becomes clear. The mountain climb becomes a metaphor for the recklessness of his youth and  his constant struggle to overcome his past. To some extent, though, this connection comes a little late. Once I understand, I almost want to start the book over with this new knowledge. I don't because in the focus to figure out the connections, I am not invested enough in the characters to begin again.

After that point, though, the book settles into the story. The present becomes more prominent, and the past becomes the key to unlocking this man's present day decisions.  The secret of the past reminds me of the story of The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. That book, however, had an intensity and emotion that does not quite come through in this book.

The power of this book is in the last few chapters where this intensity and emotion does start to build, and where the secret moment of the past is finally revealed. Will the book end with hopelessness or with hope of finally moving forward? Will the man find absolution in his visit to the past? Read and and find out.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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