The Bone People Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 38 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Bone People.
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The Bone People Summary & Study Guide Description

The Bone People Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion on The Bone People by Keri Hulme.

Kerewin Holmes is a reclusive painter who is trying to pick up the pieces of her life. Joe Gillayley is a widower who maintains a love hate relationship with his adoptive son and is searching for human companionship. Simon Gillayley is a mute seven-year-old who is lovable but notorious for his sudden outbursts of violence and theft. When the three first come together, their lives are blissful; spending their nights drinking and enjoying their friendship. As time goes on, Joe’s violence towards Simon is revealed, prompting Kerewin to become more involved in the Gillayley family. Their lives are shattered one fateful evening when Joe’s aggressive nature takes over and Simon is taken away from him forever. “The Bone People” is a twisting saga of broken families and the path toward individual redemption.

Kerewin Holmes is a painter who has lost her will to paint. She has isolated herself in a tower she had built on the edge of a beach in Southern New Zealand. One evening, she finds a young mute boy hiding in her home. When she tries to find someone to pick the boy up, the telephone operator informs her he is a known troublemaker. His father, Joe Gillayley seems to be extremely affectionate towards Simon, but when he finds out Simon has stolen an item of Kerewin’s, he slaps him. This gets Kerewin’s attention and she starts to become more involved in their lives. More abuse is heaped on the boy and Kerewin decides she must keep a more watchful eye on the Gillayley’s. This leads to a vacation where Joe tries to hurt the boy, but is instead hurt by Kerewin, who has gotten angry over Joe constantly beating Simon.

Throughout all this time, Joe’s feelings for Kerewin have blossomed from platonic to more romantic. Although Kerewin doesn’t share this feeling, she still feels very affectionate toward the pair. After the vacation, various people mention Joe and Kerewin’s relationship, causing Kerewin to take a step backward. Kerewin is frustrated at Simon for stealing her favorite knife. When she asks Simon to return it, he destroys Kerewin’s prized possession. Afterwards, Simon goes downtown, smashing windows on the main street. Joe beats Simon so badly he suffers several injuries. Simon stabs Joe with a broken shard of glass. Joe is arrested and Simon is taken to the hospital, with Kerewin left to pick up the pieces of a broken house.

Joe is sentenced to three months imprisonment and Simon eventually recovers from his injuries. Kerewin’s health begins deteriorating. In her guilt and sickness, she decides the tower must be destroyed so she dismantles as much as she can before setting off to be alone again. Joe is released and he goes to a secluded area, where he meets an old Maori man who tells Joe he has been picked to guard a secret in a cave by the beach and he is leaving all of his land to Joe. The old man dies shortly afterward, leaving Joe alone again.

As Simon recovers, he learns Joe no longer has custody of him. This makes him despondent and he becomes unresponsive to anyone that comes near him until he meets a doctor who promises Simon will be reunited with Kerewin. Unfortunately, the doctor cannot make good on his promises and Simon is sent to various orphanages, and escapes from them frequently. He goes back home, only to find Joe and Kerewin are gone.

Kerewin declines any medical treatment for the tumor on her abdomen, but the condition worsens. She goes to a deserted hut to die, but she is revitalized by a mysterious person. When she wakes up refreshed, she heads off to another small town. While there she meets a man who claims he is a diver and she pays him to salvage the shipwrecked boat Simon arrived on. Armed with new information of his past, she goes to search for Simon.

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This section contains 667 words
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