The Bethany Pierce File:
Reviewed by C.J. Darlington
Feeling for Bones by Bethany Pierce
"With the depth of a survivor, Pierce has penned a novel worthy of any prize given to literature."
At first glance the cover of Feeling for Bones doesn’t make sense. A branch, possibly from a rose bush, stretches thin and gnarled across the paper, its sharp thorns protruding from the limbs. But when we immerse ourselves in the story understanding dawns.
Olivia is sixteen-years-old when her minister father loses his job and the family moves into a ramshackle house on Great-aunt Margaret’s property. Everyone tries to adjust, but it’s not easy. With so much out of her control, Olivia controls the only thing she can—her body.
“Food was the first thing I thought of when I woke up in the morning, the last thing to occupy my mind before sleep.”
Feeling for Bones is the intimate and brutally honest portrait of one girl’s struggle to overcome a disorder she doesn’t want to admit exists. With the world screaming at her from every airbrushed photo and rail-thin model, we see how easy it is for Olivia, and girls like her, to fall into the pit that is anorexia. You can never be too thin, even if you have to hide your shrinking figure from your family under baggy clothes. Through Olivia’s eyes the eating disorder is exposed for what it is—an evil deception our enemy uses to destroy lives. We watch Olivia tiptoe into the kitchen after everyone is asleep and pour a handful of dry cereal into her palm. In the privacy of her bedroom she savors each one, “hiding in the darkness with the wariness of a criminal.”
But Feeling for Bones isn’t a doom and gloom type of story. There’s hope between the pages. Without preaching, Pierce shows us that true freedom and healing can only come through Christ.
Pierce knows of what she writes. She lived many of Olivia’s experiences (including her budding artistic abilities), and Pierce started writing the novel as a teen herself. But it would take years before she gained the distance needed to finish. Finally, through the lense of age, she realized she was no longer writing her own story—she was writing Olivia’s. With the depth of a survivor, Pierce has penned a novel worthy of any prize given to literature. Her prose is beautiful like poetry, and her specific details and use of simile are impressive.
The sweet sister relationship Olivia has with her much younger sibling is also worth noting. They have their spats, but through several tender moments their true feelings for each other surface. Olivia’s mom and dad aren’t your stereotypical we’re-so-busy-we-don’t-care parents, either. They’ve been distracted by the move and financial pressures, and that’s why Olivia has managed to hide her disorder for so long. But once her parents know, her Mom especially isn’t willing to stand by and watch Olivia continue on that destructive path, and she makes sure Olivia knows it.
It’s hard to classify Feeling for Bones. Because the main character is a teenager some might call it YA fiction. Certainly teens will relate to Olivia because she is young, but the experiences and lessons Olivia learns are universal, like Scout’s in Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird. Olivia is every person who’s looked in a mirror and wished they were someone else. She’s Everyone who’s ever faced a situation beyond their control.
“People told me I looked pale and tired, that I looked skinny. I did not see that. I saw a lot of white flesh and too much of it, bloating on my body in all the wrong places.”
That branch on the cover? It makes sense now. The branch is Olivia. Will she see her potential and realize before it’s too late how badly she’s hurting herself? But even more importantly, will she let herself be saved from a compulsion that has the potential to kill?
Bethany talk about Feeling for Bones:
C.J. Darlington is the award-winning authof of Thicker than Blood, Bound by Guilt, and Ties that Bind. She is a regular contributor to Family Fiction Digital Magazine and NovelCrossing.com. A homeschool graduate, she makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of dogs, a cat, and a paint horse named Sky. Visit her online at her author website. You can also look her up at Twitter and Facebook.