Candy Gourlay’s third novel, Bone Talk, is a look at the American invasion of the Philippines in 1899 through the eyes of a young boy named Samkad. Bone Talk describes the impact of the American invasion on a Filipino tribe who had never been exposed to the outside world before.
Bone Talk is a work of fiction, but Gourlay describes factual details about the different tribes of the Philippines at the time of the American invasion, like the way that women and men were treated differently in Filipino society. Samkad’s best friend is a girl, Luki, and although Luki wants to be a warrior like Samkad is being trained to be, Luki’s mother does not think that is acceptable. She wants Luki to take care of babies and plant rice. Gourlay also factually describes the impact of the American invasion on the Philippines, such as the introduction of guns, which tragically allows the different tribes to attack each other and not the invaders.
Bone Talk is not entirely depressing. There is a very nice storyline about Samkad and his father, which shows the importance of trust and kindness in parent-child relationships. Samkad’s father is very faithful to his son even when Samkad makes serious mistakes.
Although I enjoyed Bone Talk overall, I thought it lacked enough action for a book of its length. The first ¾ of the book set up the action that only kicks in in the final few chapters. I enjoyed learning about the Bontok region of the Philippines and its society, but I would have preferred more excitement. The last few chapters, which describes a battle between Sambak’s tribe and a rival tribe, is easily the best part of the book.
Readers of historical fiction like the I Survived series or books by the author Avi are likely to enjoy Bone Talk, but they might also find it a bit boring in parts. The ideal reader for Bone Talk is someone who enjoys historical fiction, but is particularly interested in learning about culture and tradition.