I was first drawn to this book because of two previous works by Peter Manseau, its author: his novel Songs for the Butcher’s Daughter and Vows, his extremely moving memoir about growing up as the son of a Catholic “married priest” and former nun. Rag and Bone reads like a novel, but it conveys the unvarnished intimacy of a very personal travel essay. Basically, this reverent skeptic journeyed around the world, seeking out sites where holy relics of different faiths are kept and cherished. To a non-believer, these vestiges might sound strange, even bizarre: They include chipped skull fragments, blackened mummified fingers, upright-sitting skeletons, and even toes, shinbones, and whiskers. Manseau approaches all these oddities with curiosity, but not blanket disdain, making Rag and Bone a diverting, enlightening pilgrimage.
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