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Man of Bone

Man of Bone

Man of Bone has a thriller's taste for blood, but Alan Cumyn delivers something more: a heart-wrenching portrait of an ordinary Canadian jerked into third-world terrorism. Bill Burridge, his wife and their little son have moved to the "island paradise" of Santa Irene on Bill's first diplomatic posting. At the short-staffed embassy, he is thrown, almost unbriefed, into work he scarcely understands. After less than two weeks, while driving alone on a "safe" highway to an afternoon of badminton in the country, he is snatched by revolutionaries.

Against his will, Burridge turns out under torture to be a "man of bone" who can't give up and die. His ignorance and low status make him useless to his captors, but they can't simply let him go. They continue to torture him until, distracted by other battles, they abandon him and his keeper in a mountain village. Suddenly one day helicopters rake the village with gunfire, and the whole situation turns upside down.

Alan Cumyn is well known for creating men with tender hearts and iron wills. Bill Burridge, angry at God for making him live, keeps his wits by remembering his and Maryse's courtship and marriage and their life with young Patrick. Although he isolates this part of himself from his torturers, he and his beloved family discover when he returns to Ottawa, barely alive, that "living happily ever after" will be more complex than they could have imagined.


Alan Cumyn is a master of strong fluid prose, startling humour in life's darkest moments, and characters compellingly human in their strengths and flaws. He is the author of six critically acclaimed novels, including Burridge Unbound, finalist for the Giller Prize, and The Sojourn, the novel in which Ramsay Crome first appears.

Ottawa-Carleton Book Award
Trillium Award
"One of the best young writers in the country." — Alistair McLeod

"Alan Cumyn's writing has shifted into a new gear — overdrive. Man of Bone moves at the pace of a thriller, with a thriller's taste for blood. Cumyn paints a heart-wrenching portrait of western man, Canadian subspecies — both compassionate and boneheaded — pried out of his complacency to face the brutal oppression and inhumanity that is the cankerous root of third-world political terrorism." — Tim Wynne-Jones

"Man of Bone is gripping, and its treatment of torture is fully believable. A captivating narrative of a nightmare situation." — Cynthia Keppley Mahmood

"Undesistingly fast-paced, tough, unsentimental, and compelling, Man of Bone introduces the vividly realized island nation of Santa Irene and a kidnapped, tortured Canadian diplomat who finds himself further islanded in his life-or-death predicament." — Steven Heighton

216 pages
Pub date: May 1, 1998