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Rope & Bone

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Reviews of Rope & Bone

The winter sun sets early in upstate New York.

“. . .Ginnah Howard’s Rope and Bone introduces two mothers—an art teacher and a bartender—as they meet each other for the first time in early midlife, one of those odd chance meetings that leads to unlikely friendship. It starts with a flat tire and ends with a missing child.

“From there, Howard draws the lens back and shows us the beginning of each woman’s journey, building a series of vignettes through pivotal moments in both lives. A free-standing prequel to two earlier novels, Rope and Bone forms part of a wide-angle meditation on family life that includes Howard’s Night Navigation and Doing Time Outside, both gritty and eloquent takes on mothering in the modern world. In Rope and Bone, we get their backstories.

“In the vivid, searching light that Howard sheds upon each woman’s life in turn, we see the forces that pull them together and push them apart without judgment, without any oversimplified sense of angels and demons. Carla’s life spins farther out of control, while Del strives to rein hers in; we come to love them both.

“Howard’s time-shifting Zen take on the perils and pleasures of loving rings very true. Families, friendships, catastrophes, achievements: life really is what happens when you're making other plans, and Howard excels at telling the truth about women who live on the hardscrabble edge...”

— Anne Pyburn Craig, Chronogram
    01/01/2015; read full review at



“Howard weaves together a collection of short stories (some previously published) to create this powerful novel, the final piece in a trilogy (after Night Navigation and Doing Time Outside) about two very different women and the children upon whom their accidental sins are visited. Though separated by age, education, and circumstance, Del Merrick and Carla Morletti lead parallel lives in a grim upstate New York hamlet, both struggling to gain a toehold in their worsening marriages while helplessly watching their children slip away. When the two become friends after a chance meeting, Del’s and Carla’s families are irrevocably linked, and as their entwined stories begin to unfold, both women make decisions that reverberate far into everyone’s future. Spanning from 1946 to 1993, the book lays bare Del’s and Carla’s lives with quiet compassion, wit, and an unhurried anticipation. Stunning in its simplicity, Howard’s lean prose belies the detail and richness of the characters she conveys.”

Publishers Weekly


Reader Commentary:

“I am so grateful for Ginnah Howard’s third novel, Rope and Bone, as it gives us a rich, intriguing back story of the families that appear in her first two novels. And what a back story it is. I admire these characters tremendously. They are genuine, troubled, resourceful, infuriating, and mostly trying to find their way against a tough upstate New York world. Rope and Bone is one of those books that challenges us to remember the context and complexity of every human life.”

“Howard develops characters that just grab at your heart. "Rope & Bone" is written in short stories so the character’s lives open story by story. I was disappointed when I turned to the last page and I’m still thinking about the characters and wondering what’s going to happen to them next.”

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