Book Review: Nothing Save The Bones Inside Her by @claylindemuth

Nothing Save The Bones Inside Her by Clayton Lindemuth – 4 stars

“It’s hard to turn the other cheek with a rifle barrel in your mouth.”

In 1957 rural Pennsylvania, Angus Hardgrave works an oil rig, fights dogs, distills Walnut Whiskey… and murders wives, friends, anybody.

The presence in the walnut tree on a spur called Devil’s Elbow instructs Angus what to do, and so far, following the visions has led Angus to a simple country bounty.

But Angus wants more.

Alone when her father dies, eighteen-year-old Emeline Margulies decides to follow the voice of God in all things. When she hears that she is to escape the clutches of a violent Korean War vet by marrying Angus Hardgrave–a man rumored to have pitiable luck with wives–she humbles herself and follows God’s will.

And finds herself trapped between a stalking rapist and a serial killer. As each decision leads her closer to destruction, Emeline must choose between following the faith that got her into trouble…

Or the moxie, resolve, and evil within that promise to get her out.

Although it has a little bit of a slow start, I found myself wanting to savor the writing anyway. It was difficult to put down and impossible to avoid picking back up again. Angus is clearly the star of the show, and he’s a complex man, one that inspires strong feelings from the moment you meet him. I was reminded of great literature showing the flaws of men and how much we are all influenced by our upbringing and surroundings.

My biggest problem with the book is hard to explain without giving away the ending. Emeline isn’t a very strong character, and she seems to be irrelevant in the grand scheme. She’s a puppet and a tool, and one that doesn’t understand her master well enough to do anything properly. In some ways, she’s a perfect foil for Angus, showing exactly the same result from a different starting point, but it’s hard to overcome that she comes off as weak and stupid, even when she’s being ‘strong’.

Even with its flaws, I cannot overstate how absorbed I was by this book. I do caution readers that it’s coarse and violent, and most assuredly fits into the darker side of its setting.

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