Angie Abdou

The Bone Cage

The Bone Cage by Angie AbdouTop 5 Canada Reads Finalist (2011)
MacEwan Book of the Year (2012)
One Book One Kootenay Winner (inaugural year)
Canadian Literature‘s “All-Time Top Ten List of Best Canadian Sport Literature”

Digger, an 85 kilo wrestler, and Sadie, a 26-year-old speed swimmer, stand on the verge of realizing every athlete’s dream—winning a gold medal at the Olympics. Both athletes are nearing the end of their careers, and are forced to confront the question: what happens to athletes when their bodies are too worn to compete? The blossoming relationship between Digger and Sadie is tested in the intense months leading up to the Olympics, as intense training schedules, divided loyalties, and unpredicted obstacles take their draining toll. The Olympics, as both of them are painfully aware, will be the realization or the end of a life’s dream.

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“The Bone Cage is a study in emotional and physical kinesis, patiently attentive to recording the fine details of tedious athletic training.  Abdou reaches toward the possibility of self-deception as a physical form.  Sadie acknowledges the importance of falsehood, which is also to say fiction: ‘We athletes are experts at lying to ourselves and believing it. It’s the one thing we practice every day.’ Abdou focuses on the politics and perception of the body, turning her story on ‘the paradox of the athletic life: listen to your body but don’t listen to your body.'”
– Laurie Ricou, “Sport and the Athletic Body” – special issue of Canadian Literature

“BEAUTIFUL WRITING.” – The Globe & Mail

“The title of The Bone Cage, taken from Beowulf, introduces the reigning tension of Abdou’s novel: self versus body, and the struggle for self actualization while trapped within the enclosure of our physical bodies. From the opening scene of wrestlers wrapping themselves in plastic and jogging in a sauna in a desperate – but routine – attempt to ‘cut weight’ before the Olympic trial weigh-ins, it is apparent that Abdou, herself a competitive swimmer, is not going to focus on the glamour and triumph of competitive sport. She builds sympathy for all of the athletes she portrays, and one finds oneself rooting for them – not to win, but to find happiness and fulfillment outside of the competitive arena.” – Lisa Salem-Wiseman, University of Toronto Quarterly, Letters in Canada 2007

“At a time when global attention is focused on those athletes who participate in the Olympic games, those who perform dazzling, record-breaking feats of strength and speed in single bounds before cameras and boast their new bling on medal stands, Angie Abdou’s insightful first novel The Bone Cage, published by NeWest Press in 2007, is a haunting but timely reminder that athletes are superheroes, but not in the comfortable, divinely-apportioned way that we might want to believe. Ultimately, she questions what it means to be a hero and argues that the journey of the professional athlete is much more complicated than we might realize.” – Shelly Sanders, Journal of Sport Literature

“The Bone Cage extends past sport, exploring the tentative relationship between people and their bodies. Are we simply prisoners of our own “bone cage,” predestined by our body, or can we overcome the limits of our body? Do we even want to overcome our body, or is it simply inseparable from ourselves? The Bone Cage’s questioning of an inherent self-body dichotomy reaches out universally, involving not only sport, but also illness and death. Ultimately, because Abdou does not offer concrete answers for these questions, she shows that though the specific relationship between body and self is individualized, our struggle to reconcile them is universal.” – Canadian Literature

“A compelling debut novel….The Bone Cage will appeal to a wide audience, offering keen insight into the physical and psychological challenges faced by Olympic level athletes.” – Prairie Fire Magazine

“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. . . .The Bone Cage is well paced and readable, memorable for its fresh perspective on the lives of athletes and the obstacles they must overcome.” – Quill and Quire

“Angie Abdou’s debut novel, The Bone Cage, finds its heart.. daring to question what happens to athletes who put everything else on hold for a chance at the Olympics. [….] What lurks in the shadows of elite athletics is what makes Abdou’s follow up to Anything Boys Can Do, a book of short stories, so compelling.” – VUE Magazine (Edmonton)

“Beautifully rendered….The Bone Cage is a timely offering for Canadian fans of competitive sport, especially in light of the upcoming 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.” – Edmonton Journal

“Abdou writes in The Bone Cage with the same insight and gift for character development that she displayed in her short story collection, Anything Boys Can Do. And only someone who’s been in the pool at 6 a.m. could have written such graphic descriptions of training.” – ARTiculate Magazine

“Angie Abdou explores the trials, pains, and joys of two peak athletes as they strive to be the best–no matter the cost to their minds or bodies.” – Kootenay Carnival

“Abdou deftly infuses the actions of her athletes with palpable energy” – Alberta Views

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.” – Heather Kerr for Directions, the professional journal for the Physiotherapy Association of British Columbia

“With a filmmaker’s instinct, Abdou cuts back and forth between the two athletes as they work to build their pain and multiply their fatigue […..] The reader is placed deeply underneath the skin of both individuals. [….] And so, we are taken on a sometimes horizontal, sometimes vertical glide through levels and layers of training, in a meticulous play-by-play, more intimate than any Howard Cossell commentary.” – Jocelyn Thomas, Fernie Free Press

“Abdou eschews the standard sports story cliché of underdog-triumphs-in-the-end, and instead explores what goes into the making of an elite athlete.” – Prairie Books NOW

Abdou’s novel can be read partly as a commentary on society and the way bodies are treated [….] The novel also does a fantastic job of challenging our stereotypes of athletes and their often mocked persona of “jock” or “meathead.” – Erin Bouman in The Scribe, Nipissing University

“surprisingly good” – Edmonton Journal

“The Bone Cage immerses the reader in a passionate plot that is all the more compelling because of its realism. Fiction writers rarely portray the world of sport and the lives of Olympic athletes in an authentic and meaningful light. This novel is an exception. Angie Abdou has created characters that are intelligent, flawed and wonderfully sensual. Olympic athletes, Sadie and Digger, seek personal and social legitimacy as they negotiate their identities at the end of competitive sport careers. In this novel, the Olympic Games are not merely a backdrop; this international sport event functions like a character. For Sadie and Digger, the Games provide a foundation for their identities. This foundation offers hope and status as well as illusion and alientation.” – Dr. Douglas A. Brown

“The Bone Cage is an utterly captivating evocation of the world of two athletes who are on their way to the Olympics. Original, visceral, emotionally alive, Angie Abdou’s first novel is illuminated by her many clever takes on the divided ways our culture looks at bodies even as it is darkened by the events that radically alter the lives of these two “fighters,” the wrestler and the swimmer. Like its stunning cover image, this engaging first novel also brilliantly catches not only the perils and trials but also the disciplined shimmer of the life of a champion swimmer.” – Elisabeth Harvor

“This novel is as taut, lean and focused as the driven athletes’ lives it chronicles.” – Lynn Coady

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