I looked back, saw her face pale and drawn, her eyes red-rimmed, her lips trembling. I wanted to tell her lies, tell her that I had never doubted her, that nothing could make any difference to my love for her, but I couldn’t. I had lost my mama. She was a stranger, and I was so old my insides had turned to dust and stone . . . Maybe it wasn’t a matter of anybody’s fault. 
It’s 1955 in South Carolina. From the moment Ruth Anne Boatright, nicknamed Bone, because she has proven to be one tough girl, was born, she bears the stigma of being labeled “whit-trash” and “illegitimate.” Set in the rural south, Bastard Out of Carolina revolves around the Boatwright family. When Bone is born to 15-year-old Anney, she has fought tirelessly to legitimate the child because she doesn’t want to be called trash and mark the child with shame.
Mama hated to be called trash, hated the memory of every day she’s ever spent bent over other people’s peanuts and strawberry plants while they stood tall and looked at her like she was a rock on the ground. 
When Anney marries Glen Waddell, hoping to make a decent home for her two daughters, Reese and Ruth, the Boatwrights have their reservations. “Yeah. Glen loves Anney. He loves her like a gambler loves a fast racehorse or a desperate man loves whiskey. That kind of love eats a man up.I don’t trust that boy.”  Entertaining high hope that Anney will give him a son, her miscarriage makes his downward spiral. Glen makes Bone the scapegoat of his frustrations and develops a contentious relationship with her: she suffers beatings and sexual molestation, bottling them up in order not to spoil her mother’s hard-won happiness. Becoming wrenched and self-loathing, Bone denies the advances, blames herself for not loving Daddy Glen enough, acts out her frustration, and alienates herself from home.
I looked at his hands. No, he never meant to hurt me, not really. I told myself, but more and more those hands seemed to move before he could think . . . My dreams were full of long fingers, hands that reached around doorframes and crept over the edge of mattress . . . 
It had been a long time since he had caught me alone, and sometimes I could almost convince myself that he had never held me tight to his hips, never put his hands down inside my clothes. I pretended it had all been a bad dream that would never come back . . . 
Allison develops the pathos of Bone’s heavy emotional baggage with a voice so rough that readers feel compassionate about her living in a world of shame. She hides her bruises as if they are evidence of crimes she has committed—all for her mother who, unaware of his abusive behavior, stands by him. In the end she surely pays for what she has allowed herself (and her family) to become. Though the family triangle between Anney, Glen and Bone is the center of Bastard Out of Carolina, the narrative meanders through the story of the Boatwright clan and reflects on the the strength of love and loyalty. But the plot can jump from one story to another without enough transition. It’s a moral vision of those who live in unbridled manner that render their lives trainwrecked. Bastard Out of Carolina is a disturbing book with aching believability and raw language, but I would not be as underwhelmed if people haven’t sung praises with such solicitude.
309 pp. [Read/Skim/Toss] [Buy/Borrow]
After-thought: I think the book is well-written and raw; I understand that a harrowing experience of a young girl always touches readers’ sore spots. Sympathy could sway my rating. But I have decided that this book is really not to call home about.