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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Bones by Pat Murphy

Bones by Pat Murphy
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Historical
Length: Short Story (38 pages)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

The Irish Giant – that’s what Londoners called Charlie Bryne, an enormous country lad standing 8 feet tall in his bare feet. He made his fortune by exhibiting himself, but Bryne was far more than a human oddity. He had the magical power of healing, a deep connection to the natural magic of the earth, and the blood of Irish kings in his veins. In 1782, he came to London with a single goal — to bring the Irish home to the island they had left.

John Hunter was a man of science and insatiable curiosity — a surgeon, a natural philosopher, and a tireless collector of natural oddities. With analysis and dissection, Hunter strove to understand the natural world — and he wanted to add the bones of a giant to his collection.

To quote Elie Wiesel, “some stories are true that never happened.” That is, certain stories speak so clearly about the human experience that the difference between truth and fiction becomes meaningless. What matters is is the hope and joy they ignite in anyone who reads them. This is one of those sagas.

Charlie’s quest to bring Irish people back to Ireland sounds like a traditional folk tale in the best possible sense of the term. It sounds like something that has been passed on from one generation to the next for as far back as anyone can remember. The imagery is so vivid and memorable that the events softly unfolded in my imagination. I didn’t read this so much as I experienced it.

Is Charlie mentally ill, a charlatan, or is he exactly who and what he claims to be? The opinions that swirl around him about his identity and intentions brought a touch of humour to this piece. The men and women who doubt him have good reasons for their assumptions. In their shoes I’d be just as suspicious of a tall stranger who wants to take me back to a land my parents or grandparents left many years ago. It is in these interactions where Mr. Murphy’s writing shines the brightest.

The only issue that kept me from giving Bones a higher rating was the large number of secondary characters that were rapidly introduced to the plot. While nearly all of them eventually came to be important witnesses to or participants in Charlie’s adventures I did have a little trouble keeping them straight at first as well as getting to know their individual personalities and quirks.

Even with this dab of confusion Bones easily made it onto my top five reading list of 2012. It’s a heart-warming, rib-tickling romp through a world I so desperately wish I could visit in person.

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