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The Bone Cage

by Angie Abdou

B.C. writer Angie Abdou chronicles the rise and fall of swimmer Sadie Jorgensen and wrestler Tom “Digger” Stapleton in her first novel, The Bone Cage. A tale of two athletes, The Bone Cage alternates between the two protagonists’ stories, switching back and forth from chapter to chapter until their paths fatefully cross, changing their individual destinies.

Abdou accurately describes the day-to-day world of the amateur athlete: the banal routines, the deadening workouts, the staggering physical, psychological, and emotional commitment. Through Sadie and Digger, Abdou captures the heroic quests of these hopeful Olympians in all their gritty pain and glory. Sequences describing Digger’s wrestling matches and Sadie’s grueling sets of lengths are vivid, intense, and authentic.

Abdou casts her characters in a sympathetic light, so it is all the more deeply felt when the book takes a shocking turn. Sadie gets seriously injured in a head-on collision and struggles to overcome the trauma of her injury – just as her budding (and somewhat overdue) romance with Digger starts to pick up speed.

Abdou’s ear for dialogue is sharp, but the descriptive passages of the book are often repetitive and predictable. The stench of locker-room sweat or the stink of chlorine is referred to endlessly. Some of the poetic references – Sadie, an English major, repeatedly invokes the work of Milton, Browning, and others – blunt the symbolic resonance of the narrative, reducing the novel’s total power.

Overall, though, The Bone Cage is well paced and readable, memorable for its fresh perspective on the lives of athletes and the obstacles they must overcome.