Study Notes for The Bone Cage
The Bone Cage. Angie Abdou.
Review by Heather Kerr, B.Sc.PT, RCAMT, CAFCI
When writer Angie Abdou gave herself the task of describing the sensuality of competitive swimming, it was pretty easy. The former university-level and current master’s swimmer loves her sport. “I’m proud of the swimming descriptions because I think they’re quite poetic, which is kind of a kinesthetic form of language.”, says Abdou of her first novel.
When it came to writing wrestling, something not as familiar, she did what any good physiotherapist would do – asked a lot of questions, and performed a site visit. This came in the form of having her brother Justin, who wrestled for Canada in the Sydney Olympics, take her through a few gut wrenches.
The shining end product is The Bone Cage. It is important in its rare literary depiction of sport and even more rare literary depiction of physiotherapy. This novel follows Sadie, a swimmer, and Digger, a wrestler, both in the twilight of their competitive careers, as they prepare for the Sydney Games. Physiotherapists who work with athletes will recognize the insular worlds of Sadie and Digger, the dogmatism of their coaches, and the ever-present team goofballs. The novel explores the number and kinds of ways elite athletes topple from their moments of perfect existence and then strive to once again regain that zone.
The Bone Cage is a medieval reference to the body, which is a central theme of the novel. Enter Abdou’s varied and interesting portrayals of athletes’ relationships to the body, and to the medical professionals who “fix” bodies. Abdou is unafraid to touch on negative medical experiences and set patronizing professionals in their places. She also praises those who manage to turn even the most self-centred and bitter a degree or two more positive. The Bone Cage makes literary forays into many underrepresented areas of medicine, such as acupuncture, prolotherapy, and the enormous grey area of mental health, reminding readers that there is a story behind every individual in care. Athletes and non-athletes alike will find the honesty of this work insightful, transporting them into the bone cages of Olympians, helping to better understand their bizarre and amazing world. The Bone Cage could easily be a clinical case study with a soul.
Angie Abdou will be the Beth Maloney Memorial Speaker at this year’s joint PABC & CPTBC Annual General Meeting, discussing her novel, The Bone Cage. Angie teaches English at Cranbrook’s College of the Rockies and is a Ph.D candidate in the University of Calgary’s Creative Writing program. The Bone Cage is published by NeWest Press, and is available at bookstores across Canada.