Rope & Bone traces the parallel, and eventually interwoven, lives of two very different women whose courage, originality and humor will carry them through the darkest of times and the toughest things that life can sling at them. Rope & Bone’s thirty-four story/chapters span the years from 1946 to 1993. The novel opens in 1984 on Chicken Farm Road when Del Merrick, an art teacher living without plumbing or electricity, enlists help in changing a flat tire from Carla Morletti, a member of the Pagan Biker’s auxiliary, now studying for her G.E.D. This chance connection between these two women will reroute their lives and the lives of their children. The first section of the novel, “Wildest Dreams,” flashes back to pivotal moments in the past. Part 2, “Castanets,” tells of Carla and Del’s misadventures as they try to raise their kids, get their old cars started on subzero mornings, and put in enough wood to get through until April— at the same time they’re testing their theory: a good man’s hard to find. In Part 3, “Shelter,” Carla and Del’s friendship darkens as their children’s lives become more chaotic. Rope & Bone’s is Book 1 of a trilogy. These stories are told in the voices of all of the members of both families: the Merricks and the Morlettis. They all get a chance to give their “take” on their formative years. This novel acts as a kind of prequel to Book One, Night Navigation and Book Two, Doing Time Outside. All three novels were written to stand alone.
Howard weaves together a collection of short stories (some previously published) to create this brutal, 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. (BookLife)