The Bone People by Keri Hulme is mystery by a Maori author rich in characterization and Maori culture. Kerewin Holmes, like much of New Zealand is a mixture of European and Moari ancestry. She is an artist, omnivorous reader, self-educated on a wide range of topics, but also spent a year in Japan to study Akido, not the spiritual stuff, but to learn to kick ass. Joe Gillayley is Maori and full of contradictions - the most central to the plot is his tender care and affection for Joe, a boy who washed ashore as the only survivor of a ship wreck, combined with his abusive discipline of Joe who is only six or eight at the most. That leaves Joe, the third player in this odd triangle. Joe has nightmares and phobias (doctors, French language) and periodic violent out bursts.
Throughout the story, the three share cigarettes, gambling, and great quantities of alcohol in their search to discover what drives each of them towards self-destruction.
A deep character study of alienation and an introduction to contemporary Maori culture, but a slow read.
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