Bone Memories is the immersive new novel from Sally Piper. It examines the repercussions of a terrible crime, across three generations of a family. The wonderful team at UQP Books were kind enough to send me a copy for review.
Jess, a young mother, was murdered – in front of her toddler, by a complete stranger – sixteen years ago. Her mother, Billie, clings desperately to her memory and believes she lives on in the land she walked in life. Her son, Daniel, is desperate to move on and not let this tragic event define him, but struggles with the feeling that he’s abandoning his grandmother. Carla, Daniel’s stepmother, also feels trapped by the memory of Jess, and is pushing the family to move on and move away, for a fresh start.
The first thing that struck me while reading Bone Memories is that, even though Jess’s murder is unsolved, the story isn’t about the search for her killer. The crime doesn’t propel the story. Rather, it’s the relationships between the people left in the event’s fading wake that drive everything forward.
My allegiances shifted, several times, as Bone Memories played out. Hyper-sensitive Billie, conflicted Daniel, and frustrated Carla are all relatable in different ways. They’re all trying to build a future while adequately honouring the past; the trouble is, they all have different ideas about the best way to do that. There’s no clear “winner” in this story. They’re all right, and they’re all wrong, in the way they go about things.
Readers of Australian literary fiction and family dramas will really enjoy Bone Memories, for its intensity and keen insight into grief, family, and place-memory.