Marrow by Tarryn Fisher is not what you expect. This is not a coming of age story. This is not a crime noir mystery. This is not a book of erotica masquerading as women’s fiction. This is not a young adult novel. There are a lot of genres that this book is not, but what it is, what it does…is reach deep down into the dank and shadowing place you pretend doesn’t exist in your soul and grabs it by the balls and squeezes. Squeezes until you cannot breathe, cannot cry out, cannot even think…
“…Margo,’ she says. I wait for the command, breath bated. This time she is looking at my reflection, slightly behind hers. ‘You’re not a pretty girl. You could at least lose the weight. What you don’t have in the face, you can have in the body.’
So I can sell it like you do?
‘I’ll try, Mama.’
Submission. That’s my job.
‘Margo, you can go now,’ she says. ‘Stay in your room…”
Margo lives in the Bone. Its a neighborhood where she lives with her mother. Her mother who services men who come by at night. Margo must lock herself in her room while they are there so they never see her. In a place of poverty and crack houses, she is the daughter of the whore on the block. Everyone knows Margo and her mother, but Margo wants a different life for herself. She finds a job and goes to school. She cares for the other kids on the street and makes friends with the young man on street named Judah. Judah is wheelchair bound but he doesn’t let that keep him down. His dream is to someday leave the Bone.
“…You have to understand something about the Bone,’ Judah says. ‘Every bad thing that happens here reminds people of what they’re trying to forget. When you’re rich and you see stuff like this on TV, you hug your children and feel grateful it’s not you. When you’re from the Bone, you hug your children and pray you’re not next…”
Then one morning a little girl goes missing and for Margo, this goes too far in the Bone. She throws herself into searching for the child and to her horror, she begins to piece together just what happened to the child. For Margo, she can no longer sit back and accept what happens in the Bone.
“…Judah and I outgrow the rest of the Bone and cleave to one another. Nothing is better than the discovery of another living, breathing human, who fights the same as you do, loves the same as you do, and understands you with such clarity that it feels erotic. A friendship between the fat, ugly girl and the crippled, handsome boy. It is a friendship that we both had waited for. One we both needed…”
But leaving the Bone is not enough for Margo, no for her, she has to do something much more…
“…It takes time to plan someone’s murder….”
Margo comes to realize that she cannot truly leave the Bone, because wherever she goes, she takes it with her.
Okay, this book totally took me by surprise. I’m not sure what I expected but the story behind this tale was not it. I think perhaps I was expecting something along the lines of a dark young adult novel but instead what I found was a well plotted and paced novel of a descent into madness by a young girl who had everything working against her. Margo’s growth and her subsequent actions seem rationale on some level, though perhaps extreme. Judah is the consistent voice of reason through the story but even his voice is ignored as Margo rejects him after his, in her mind, act of betrayal by going on with his life. It is only later that we see that there is so much more to the truth of that act than what is initially understood.
In the end, Margo is forced to choose between her truth and the reality around her and as a reader, you are asked to choose as well.
A terrific story and character that rises above the writing skill of the author and that is not a knock on this book. It is, quite simply, the best of compliments. This is a good story, part Alice In Wonderland and Boys In the Hood.
Not to be missed!!