Do not be intimidated by the length of PG Lengsfelder’s Beautiful to the Bone, the over 300 pages will fly as the story unravels. This shadowy tale centers on the intelligent and strange Eunis and the often terrible cast of characters that make up her life. Eunis is an albino and the book begins in her childhood with her mother essentially seeking justification from a doctor that “something is wrong with her”. Eunis is surrounded by cruelty and quickly comes to believe that not only is something “wrong” with her, but that she is also bad luck as everyone tells her, particularly her family. Her only ally for a short time is a three-legged mutt named Nemo, that gives her the love and companionship she so desperately lacks elsewhere. Eunis retreats into a life of solitude, study and calculated observation that will continue on long into her adult life. The novel, part of a trilogy, follows Eunis into her mid-thirties and creates a quiet darkness that creeps throughout the story.
Beautiful to the Bone is hard to categorize as there are themes of fantasy, magical realism, suspense, psychological drama and more. The text is not heavy as a result of these themes, but rather moves the story along in a very fluid manner, like the currents of the water that Eunis seeks refuge within. In high school she gets to hide while she performs as her school’s Beaver mascot and finally finds love and adoration, only while wearing a mask. Eunis is quietly obsessive, with beauty, with mating rituals, bodies and anatomy and more. She takes an unlikely job with a taxidermist and not only enjoys the work, she excels at it. Eunis is a hard character to read. She’s sympathetic because of the cruelty that she endures, but there is a prickling sense of foreboding that travels with her across the pages, never fully opening her up. Her investigative qualities make her exciting and her aloof demeanor makes her a fascinating, rather than polarizing figure. This seems to be exactly the plan that PG Lengsfelder intended. When Eunis meets her eventual husband Harold, it seems for a moment that she has finally discovered what happiness is, yet that too is fleeting. With the events that follow, there is a shift in the book and a shift in Eunis’ resolve. A different level of Eunis is exposed. The twists and turns that the story takes are fast-paced and well thought out, the evolution of the characters and the strong, twisted and interesting plot showcases Beautiful to the Bone as a novel that will appeal to all readers, looking to get tangled in a murky drama.
PG Lengsfelder crafts an interesting story about a woman often overlooked and while the story is not a coming of age tale, it does showcase a woman coming into her own through her own devices, with little outside assistance. Lengsfelder’s characters are strong and invoke a lot of powerful emotions, some that open up further contemplation of motives or processes. This story is one that will definitely stick with the reader after completion.
Lauren Cannavino is a graduate student, freelance writer, wine lover, and avid reader. Random musings can be found over at www.goldiesays.wordpress.com.
Review copy was provided by PG Lengsfelder.