The Bone Factory
Paperback, 320 pages, $7.99
Review by Sheila Merritt
Nate Kenyon ascended to great heights in his novel The Reach, which was reviewed with enthusiasm here on Hellnotes. His follow-up novel, The Bone Factory, comes with the baggage of extremely high expectations; the proverbial: a blessing and a curse. Does Mr. Kenyon hit another one out of the ballpark? In many ways, he does. His pacing was better in The Reach, in terms of consistency. The Bone Factory loses some steam periodically, but more than makes up for it in the last fifty or so pages. It is because of his strength in characterization, however, that the author mostly succeeds in making another very positive impression.
The story centers on a family on the brink of imploding. David Pierce is unemployed with no immediate prospects. His wife, Helen, is a stay at home mom. Their only child, four year old Jessica, requires a lot of monitoring. She has an obsessive-compulsive disorder, but also possesses nascent psychic skills. Her parents are concerned about Jessica’s frequent nightmares, and view her precognitive abilities with alarm. They fear she may have a major psychological problem.
Financially strapped, and emotionally stretched to the limit, the family is initially delighted when David gets a job with Hydro Development. The company is building a hydropower plant in a remote region of Quebec and quickly hires David as an advisor. Despite some qualms about the isolated environs, the household accepts the move out of financial necessity. If this is sounding rather like Stephen King’s The Shining, welcome to the club. There are other Shining-esque elements in the plot; a major snowstorm, a deranged madman, and intense child endangerment.
The derivative aspects of the novel are tempered by some very fine character writing. As noted in the review of The Reach, Nate Kenyon has a way with women. His female characters are imbued with lots of dimension and determination. The male characters are almost as good, although there is a tendency toward writing off the corporate bad guys with sketchy description. The villains are guilty of a heinous cover-up; think Agent Orange and ratchet up its horrific potential several notches.
It’s impossible not to root for the Pierces and their allies as they battle a drug damaged crazed murderer. The outcome leaves room for speculation and qualification: Not everyone who survives is devoid of internal, mental scars. While The Bone Factory isn’t as good a read as The Reach, it does strike lots of chords and hits many high notes. It will be interesting to see what Kenyon delivers in his next novel.