Publication Date: November 10, 2017
Pocketful of Bones
In Pocketful of Bones by Julie Frayn, while trying to hide evidence, Finnegan MacGillivray finds a burial ground in the garden of the home he shares with his mother. He becomes obsessed with finding the secrets behind the bones and is forced to move away when his compulsion crosses several lines. When he returns many years later will Finnegan discover that he was living with a killer?
The author gave me a copy of this novel in exchange for my review.
Frayn’s strength is the slow build of urgency in her stories. Her characters are odd and usually, consider themselves societal rejects and their out-of-the-ordinary characters leave readers unclear as to how they’ll react in situations. This unpredictability leaves readers unsure of where they’ll take the narrative but with a certainty that it’s unlikely to end well for everyone. That skill in honed in Pocketful of Bones, a brutally beautiful work of fiction.
Tibba is a wonderfully written character. Life has dealt her a tough hand. Men use her and she uses them to get the money she needs to support herself and her “occupational hazard” Finnegan. The heart-rending tenderness of her feeling towards her son and desperation to protect him are illustrated beautifully both in lyrical language and act. Tibba longs for a stable home — the life she doesn’t think she deserves. She sees herself as having been on a path of selling herself for male pleasure since she enjoyed promiscuity in an attempt to erase memories of what her father has done to her. She is pragmatic in her goal of doing what she must for “Finny Mac.” I found Tibba’s observation that a hooker and client age together poignant.
When we meet Finnegan, he’s an awkward kid repeating 6th grade. He does have one fierce friend, a girl named Birdie, who is defying her family who deems Finnegan’s family as unsuitable. The stories of Finnegan and his mother diverge in tone living both at different times but in different worlds. Frayn isn’t one to remind us of what we’ve experienced, nor does she need to do so. We can draw conclusions. Finnegan begins to see his mother in a new light and his interest grows to obsession which begins to sharply veer to the Oedipal. Frayn’s specialty is beautifully damaged people with intricate stories and while Pocketful of Bones is perhaps not my favorite work by this author, it is a showpiece of her skill in creating characters that are both endearing and tragic.
Pocketful of Bones is a 342-page front to back read. Frayn’s skill as a storyteller leads to a narrative that flows with often painful beauty. We see a john abusing Tibba and we see her striking back and we know that this character knows that she did what she had to do. We see Finnegan covering a tragedy, and we know that though the moment is separate and years apart, he’s living the legacy of his mother. Frayn’s story is visceral. A boy and his mother going through the motions of life both with secrets, but Finnegan’s secrets start to change in a way that becomes dark. The beauty of that moment, people; I cannot overemphasize the talent it takes. If you enjoy darkness and a little Norman Bates (without his cruel and manipulative mother) in your characters, you will melt into this work of outstanding artistry.
Pick Pocketful of Bones up today. There’s a reason that all of its reviews on Amazon up to the date of this writing are 5 stars. You will not be disappointed.
For further reviews of books written by Julie Fayn, check out our list.
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