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Bastard Out of Carolina

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  39,815 ratings  ·  2,857 reviews
Greenville County, South Carolina, is a wild, lush place that is home to the Boatwright family—a tight-knit clan of rough-hewn, hard-drinking men who shoot up each other's trucks, and indomitable women who get married young and age too quickly. At the heart of this story is Ruth Anne Boatwright, known simply as Bone, a bastard child who observes the world around her with a ...more
Mass Market Paperback, Plume Essential Edition, 320 pages
Published September 6th 2005 by Plume (first published March 1992)
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Average rating 4.12  · 
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 ·  39,815 ratings  ·  2,857 reviews

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Jeffrey Keeten
Oct 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jeffrey by: On the Southern Literary Trail
Shelves: southern
”He pinned me between his hip and the sink, lifting me slightly and bending me over. I reached out and caught hold of the porcelain, trying not to grab at him, not to touch him. No. No. No. He was raging, spitting, the blows hitting the wall as often as they hit me. Beyond the door, Mama was screaming. Daddy Glen was grunting. I hate him. I hated him. The belt went up and came down. Fire along my thighs. Pain. I would not scream. I would not, would not, would not scream.”

Bone played by Jena
Jan 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone
Recommended to Lawyer by: NY Times Book Review
Bastard Out of Carolina: A Reader's Personal Reflection

“People pay for that they do, and still more, for what they have allowed themselves to become. And the pay for it simply: by the lives they lead. - James Baldwin” --From the epigraph to the novel.

"No one knows what goes on behind closed doors."

It is hard to swallow, hard to believe, stories such as the one told by Dorothy Allison. The world would be a much prettier and more pleasant place if we did not have to believe things of t
This book is beautifully written, but I did not enjoy it. It is a grim story of poverty, child abuse and rape. The prose may be lovely but the drama is harrowing.

"Things come apart so easily when they have been held together with lies."

Bastard Out of Carolina is the story of Ruth Anne Boatwright, but everyone calls her Bone. She was born out of wedlock and doesn't know who her daddy is. Her mama tried several times to get the word "illegitimate" removed from Bone's birth certificate, but the cou
Jun 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dorothy Allison pissed a few people off when she first wrote this novel. Boy am I glad she did. Why should literature seek to please, rather than excite the reader? Why should it try to be polite in order to seek the truth? Should books not produce composed disorder, honest diatribes, and gut-wrenching truths? Insult me, make me angry, make me laugh, make me cry, leave my mouth agape from disbelief at your crude renunciations of what I thought was orthodox--all things that good books do.

In Gree
I guess I never got the memo. I didn't realize that this was one of the most depressing tales of physical and sexual abuse. I had always looked forward to reading this novel and had the impression it was an empowering, coming-of-age story of a girl who triumphs over poverty and place.

No triumph. Just lots of stomach clenching scenes and dread in my heart and intestines. This was ever so painful for me to read, despite some moments of powerful and memorable writing.

And, who'd a thunk it? For the
May 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Helene Jeppesen
Feb 25, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of those books that leaves you with so many questions, but I think the afterword really helped me understand the overall message, and it made me realize how important this book is.
This is a brutal and honest story about Ruth who grows up with her mother, her sister and her step-father in America. She is also surrounded by a ton of aunts and uncles who help her guide her through life. This book is not for the faint-hearted, but still I think it's very important that everybody read it
Sep 07, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
2.5 Stars

Bastard out of Carolina is a tough and harrowing read. Written by Dororthy Allison and set in Allison's home town of Greenville, South Carolina in the 1950s. The story centres around "Bone" Boatwright a girl born fatherless to 15 years old Anney Boatwright and sexually and physically abused by her step-father Glen but part of a large extended family who know poverty and life is as hard as it gets a life where family matters but drinking and fighting is part of their existence.

I person
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews at:

“There’s need,” she said. “God knows there’s need.” Her voice was awesome, biblical. “God knows.”

Bastard Out of Carolina had been on my TBR for an age due its prevalence on the annual Banned Books List. I’m not quite sure why I never got around to reading it before now, but since I’ve rectified that situation I would be a strong proponent for this being taught as a companion piece to To Kill A Mockingbird in high school literature
A.M. O'Malley
Feb 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I just read this for the second time.

When I was still at home, still under his roof. I saw the film adaptation of Bastard Out Of Carolina. We all did; my mother, him, the boys we watched it together in the living room. I laid on the floor in front of the TV and felt all the muscles in my body tense and a hot flush go through me as I watched the story of Bone , the bastard girl. Her mama married a man—after a hard life, he was her second chance—and then her mama stood by as that man hurt Bone. H
Larry Bassett
It is December 2019 and I just finished listening to the audible version of this book that was created in 2012. The book was first published in 1982. The audible version has an epilogue written by the author in 2012 which talks about her motivation for writing this novel and her distinctions between fiction and nonfiction. This book put you in a world of white trash and violence and rape against children that you may think that you understand. Regardless of what you may think you will possibly t ...more
Dec 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
Took the shine off my teeth, this one. But also made me want to torch every bottle distributor truck in the Carolinas just in case it might slow down that piece of work Glen and his damn fool wife. Forget about burning down the Greenville courthouse. Bone had the right idea when she went up on the roof: you got to hit them the only place they can feel, in the cash pocket.

I read this slow. Slow and stubborn, which felt just right. And now I'm snake-bit: I need to hear more from Granny about what
Jan 23, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
This is a semi-autobiographical novel that has been banned from certain schools and libraries.

And now I'm going to take a minute to tell you what that means to me.

What it means is that a group of people have determined the content of this book might prove difficult for a developing mind to encounter. There is material contained in this story that some feel would be better approached at a more mature age. No one's burning the book, and thereby eradicating the possibility of its ever being read, b
Feb 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
This is a brutal life we live.

For those who say they love us, how can we really know unless they share it in a loving manner. We trust these people, these adults who we admire, who we believe will keep us safe. These loving actions and words can easily turn into anger and bring out the monster within.

When all you know is ugliness, you become ugly. Ugly, ugly, ugly.

The last 40-50 pages made me feel anger, disgust and an anxiety that knows no comparison.

Some have shared their opinions about this
Jun 17, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Bastard Out of Carolina is one of those books about which all of the hooplah surrounding it really baffles me. Allison basically plagiarizes herself by, instead of expanding what was a quite good short story she wrote and published in High Risk: An Anthology of Forbidden Writings, simply cutting and pasting sections of it throughout the book (I actually went through it and identified the sections because I could scarcely believe a serious author would do something so incredibly lazy). The final ...more
Nov 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Reminiscent of This Boy’s Life and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, the novel is a coming of age story set in the rural south. The novel opens with the birth of main character and narrator of the story, Ruth Anne (nicknamed Bone), the illegitimate daughter of a 15-year-old member of the dirt poor Boatwright clan. The book, a semi-autobiography, chronicles Bone’s youth growing up as “poor, white trash” and the abuse she suffers at the hands of her emotionally disturbed stepfather.

The abuse scene
I was really looking forward to some Southern Comfort with a side serving of White Trash to Gari gargle with, after a longish bout of ‘classic’ literature. Its necessary, when one finds oneself saying ‘wherwithal’ and ‘henceforth’ in all seriousness. Over a pint.

But Dorothy Allison doesn’t deliver what she promises on the label. There is, forsooth (oops, there I go again), no White Trash qualia here at all. No madness, no real violence (save for two scenes towards the end), no drunkenness, no n
Kathryn in FL
As Allison relays in the Afterword, she was in a gymnasium in Maine, speaking to the authorities why this book should be allowed to be taught in the area high school. An elderly, unassuming man approached her after the meeting was completed (the school system upheld their decision to ban the book), he grabbed her hands and said 'you told my story.' Then turned around and left, no one observing what had transpired.

She told my story.
Oct 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
God damn, this was rough as guts.
Jul 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A powerful story. This story needs to be told for every child living in a dysfunctional situation where they have no voice and live with hurt, fear, confusion, pain. These feelings ultimately turn into anger and self-loathing & shame.
Bone lives in such a situation. This is her story but it resonates for all people who have experienced being voiceless and speaks for them.
Mar 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
'I had wanted to laugh at everyone, Raylene and the nurses, all of them watching me like some fragile piece of glass, ready to shatter around boiling water. I was boiling inside. I was cooking away. I was who I was going to be, and she was a terrible person.'

A word of warning right from the start if you are sensitive to physical, sexual and mental abuse than this book may be one you will wan't to avoid. Narrated by Ruth Anne 'Bone' Boatwright, this a harrowing story of a dysfunctional but loving
Elizabeth (Alaska)
Make no mistake: this is a hard read. The last 30 pages were almost too hard, but who could leave then? My jaw - even my teeth - hurt for several hours afterward from clenching. If I said I'm "glad" I read this, I would be putting it in the wrong light. Gladness cannot enter into it.

The best writers write what they know. Dorothy Allison was an abused child and this debut comes from what she knew. In the Afterword in this edition, she writes that this is not an autobiographical novel. She was no
Sue Davis
Oct 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most heart wrenching, shockingly sad novels about poverty, family interaction, dysfunction and abuse that I have read recently. For me Allison's treatment of class and gender and, to a lesser extent, race (always there in a southern novel) makes Bastard Out of Carolina such an important contribution to southern literature rather than just a very sad story about an incredibly feckless mother.

A quotation that captures the theme of class and race in the context of southern histo
Oct 17, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: trauma
i have no idea why this book gets so much love. the writing is mediocre, the story construction weak-linked, the point fudged by so much nonsense, it's blurry and romanticized and wrapped in cheap tin foil and smelling of county fair cotton candy. and the mistique of class: i like it just as much as i like the mistique of ethnicity, i.e. not at all. ...more
Jul 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: oz-july-2020
Setting: South Carolina, USA; 1950s. This is the moving, raw and poignant tale of Ruth Anna Boatwright, known to her family as 'Bone', raised in a 'poor white trash' family in South Carolina, the tale being narrated by herself.
Her mother was fifteen when she gave birth to Bone and her father is unknown, hence the title of the book. Despite their comparative poverty, Bone leads a happy life with a network of aunts and uncles who sometimes provide a stabilising influence and sometimes much drama.
Jul 15, 2009 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: the pretentious
Shitty book. Not badly written-characters not flat or cardboard. So I really had to ask myself, "Why is this book so bad? Why did I dislike it so much?"

Answer: because it's boring. Sure, stuff happens. It's not logged down with too much detail, or badly executed, or anything like that. The story, the events, the plot itself, is one of the most boring I've ever came across.

We have this little girl. She's born into bad circumstances, and that's okay. But then bad shit happens to her. Again. Again
DeMisty Bellinger
Jun 23, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: People who liked _Fried Green Tomatoes_ and working class fiction
Recommended to DeMisty by: Dr. Nick Spencer, a really neat peson.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I really hate to say it, but I struggled a lot with this book. Bastard Out of Carolina has been on my TBR ever since I first heard Mercedes from MercysBookishMusings' absolutely glowing review, and it sounded like everything I love in a book, and more besides. Maybe I was a victim of hype, but I found this really difficult to get through.

The book is semi-autobiographical, and follows the child narrator Bone, and illegitimate child who suffers both physical and mental abuse at the hands of her cr
Robert Sheard
Jun 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm just going to leave this up to Dorothy Allison's own words, from the Afterword: "I made up the Boatwrights, building them from scraps of family story but deepening them with music and a wry spoken language that layered incident and terrible details to create something not unlike those mountain songs I had heard as a girl–tragic awful stories full of powerful broken people." ...more
Jul 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A contemporary classic, this powerful novel is a disturbing tale of child abuse, told with wisdom and restraint. Allison brilliantly tells the story through the first-person narrative of Bone, a young girl who doesn’t want to believe what’s happening to her, so for the most part she reveals the truth sparingly—which makes the more dramatic moments that much more terrifying. Allison deftly captures the psychological nuances of the situation at the same time, making clear to the reader some things ...more
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Dorothy Allison is an American writer, speaker, and member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers. Themes in Allison's work include class struggle, child and sexual abuse, women, lesbianism, feminism, and family.

Allison's first novel, the semi-autobiographical Bastard Out of Carolina, was published in 1992 and was one of five finalists for the 1992 National Book Award.

Allison founded The Independe

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“Things come apart so easily when they have been held together with lies.” 1095 likes
“Everything that comes to us is a blessing or a test. That’s all you need to know in this life…just the certainty that God’s got His eye on you, that He knows what you are made of, what you need to grow on. Why,questioning’s a sin, it’s pointless. He will show you your path in His own good time. And long as I remember that, I’m fine.” 59 likes
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