Have you ever read a book that was just a little too familiar? You know, beyond the simple offering of a relatable character or two. I’m talking about the kind of book that can seem almost like a memoir of your life, written by a stranger and marketed as fiction. If you haven’t yet experienced this, don’t worry. I’m sure one day you will open a book and find yourself suddenly comparing each tiny detail of the narrative to your own existence. For those of us who already know what it’s like, I’m sure you remember the first time it happened to you. The first time you felt that welling of emotion in your chest as your entire life seemed to flash before you on paper. Though this can be initially unnerving for some, the experience overall is almost therapeutic, serving as a reminder that someone out there understands at least some of what it means to have experienced moments you felt were yours alone, even if only for the sake of writing a book. For me, Elaine Burnes’ Wishbone is that book.
The story itself focuses on Meg Myers, a lesbian woman living in Massachusetts who works as an animal control officer and aspires to one day open a much needed animal shelter in her town. Though Meg loves her job and is able to maintain a semi-positive front from day to day, she is secretly still trying to recover from a very dark past–one that haunts her every moment and threatens to tear her apart at the seams. Even though the things she wants most in life keep slipping away from her, Meg manages to cope by means of passionate one-night stands and an endless dedication to the animals she works so hard to protect. It is only after she watches her best-friend marry the woman of her dreams that the weight of Meg’s reality finally becomes too heavy. This up close brush with the concept of love which has so long eluded her sends Meg into a deep depression, the likes of which she has been running from since infancy.
The story of Wishbone is one of healing, following Meg through her darkest hour and out to the other side once more as she learns what it means to finally outgrow the horrors of her past, no matter how painful the process may be. However, it is by no means a feel good tale that one reads hoping for a magical happy ending. After a life of foster homes, beatings, and the deepest of disappointments, the only true happy ending for Meg’s story is the ability to fall in love and let go of the pain that binds her. Which, though beautiful and romantic in its own right, is not an ending. Rather, it is a beginning to a life not yet lived.
Like Meg, I too have lived through the darkness of a childhood cruelly stolen. I know the sorrow of never feeling at home no matter where you lived. Of never feeling safe, especially at home. The life I’ve lived still haunts me to this day and I, like Meg, have long suffered in my mind and heart for the crimes committed against me in my youth. And I won’t lie, reading Wishbone with my background was jarring. However, as I made my way through chapter after chapter I often found myself weeping not just from sheer emotion of it all, but also because of the supreme prowess displayed by the author in her writing overall. The way Burnes captures the struggle of an abused and neglected child in the midst of a child-protective system so tragically flawed is handled with painstaking care and respect, as is her repeated treatment of queer issues such as homosexuality, bisexuality, and gender identity. This novel is clearly a labor of love and, though not as cheery a tale as many I’ve reviewed for you so far, is absolutely worth the read. I especially encourage anyone else out there who has lived through unspeakable tragedy to embrace this book with open arms. Beautifully written and poignantly powerful, I can truly say that Wishbone gave me hope where before dwelled naught but despair. And that alone is worth all the time in the world.
Bedazzled Ink Publishing
Wishbone can be purchased here
A closeted pansexual feminist from a family of bible-thumping conservatives, Tabitha is an undergraduate English major with seven beautiful furbabies and more Sailor Moon collectibles than sense. Her hobbies include (but certainly are not limited to) reading, writing, and taking absurdly long baths. She currently resides in the middle of nowhere, which is naturally the perfect place to be when it comes time to read books for a living.