Bone develops a love of gospel music and spends hours listening to records and singing, often with her Aunt Ruth. Bone is frustrated with her poor singing voice and hopes that with practice, she can perform like the choirs she hears on the radio. Finally, the time comes for Bone to return home. Her cousin Deedee arrives to care for Aunt Ruth but approaches the task with bitterness. Bone wonders about the root of Deedee's anger towards her mother.
Bone's love of gospel music leads her to discover the Christian faith. She proselytizes to her aunts and uncles, who are at the same time amused and annoyed. She volunteers to be saved during a church service fourteen different times, but every time, she flees - describing the ritual as “cold and empty” (152). Anney becomes aware of Bone's pattern and takes her to be baptized. After finally completing a baptism, Bone does not feel “whatever magic Jesus’ grace promised” and becomes increasingly disillusioned with religion (152).
On the way to school one morning, Bone befriends Shannon Pearl, a strange-looking child with translucent skin who looks like “a lurching hunched creature shining with sweat” (155). Bone initially thinks Shannon must be saintly, remembering Christian stories where those who are physically ugly are the most spiritually pure. She comes to realize that Shannon, who is the victim of constant bullying, is actually full of rage and dreams about hurting the people who reject her. Like Bone, Shannon tells morbid stories filled with death and violence. Unlike Bone's tales, though, Shannon mires her fables in reality, built around details reminiscent of “newspaper headlines and autopsy reports” (Allison 157). Shannon and her family clearly believe that they are superior to the poor and uneducated Boatwrights.
Shannon’s parents work on the gospel music circuit: finding talent, booking venues, and creating costumes. Bone frequently travels with the Pearls and is able to meet all her favorite singers and musicians. On one of these trips, she hears beautiful music emanating from a small, simple church and calls to Shannon to get her father. Shannon responds that her “daddy don’t handle n*ggers” (Allison 170). Shannon’s “sneering” tone when she utters racial slur reminds Bone of the way Glen’s family calls Bone and Reese “trash” (170). Bone picks a fight with Shannon. In retaliation, Shannon insults the Boatwright family for being poor “drunks and thieves and bastards” (Allison 170). Bone, deeply insulted, calls Shannon ugly and hideous. Their friendship is over.
Reese and Bone become increasingly competitive as Reese approaches adolescence. Reese, like Bone, dresses in masculine clothing and acts like “a tomboy” (173). Bone notices that Reese masturbates very frequently and finds her masturbating one afternoon with a pair of their mother’s underwear over her face. Later, Bone sees Reese masturbating to a rape fantasy in the woods; Bone begins rubbing herself against a tree as she watches. Reese’s preoccupation with violent sexuality seems to indicate that she, like Bone, has been the victim of sexual abuse at the hands of Daddy Glen.
Anney attempts to keep the girls outside to prevent them from disturbing Daddy Glen during his frequent dark moods. She sends Bone to help her Aunt Raylene. Bone implies that Aunt Raylene, who lives alone, may be a lesbian. Bone quickly bonds with her aunt, and spends her free time fishing items out of the river, tending to the garden, and helping Raylene can fruits.
One day, Bone and her cousins pull a pair or trawling hooks out of the river and, believing them to be tools for mountain climbing, attempt to scale the walls of Aunt Raylene’s house. Raylene discovers them and is furious when she sees the damage to her roof; she locks the hooks in her cellar and tells the children they are used to fish pieces of dead bodies out of the river. Several of the cousins begin to have nightmares about the hooks. Bone, however, remains fascinated with the hooks and manages to sneak one out of the cellar. She enlists her cousin Grey in a plot to break into Woolworths by using the hooks to scale the walls. That night, she takes the hook home and masturbates with it.
As Bone begins to enter adolescence, sexuality and violence become increasingly intertwined in her mind. She eagerly listens, “openmouthed and fascinated,” to Shannon Pearl’s horrific stories about “decapitations, mutilations, murder and mayhem” (157). Bone's fantasies also expand and grow more disturbing. In addition to thinking about being burned and being beaten in front of a crowd, Bone imagines that someone has beaten her with sticks, put “their hands in [her] clothes” and left her tied to a tree (Allison 176). Her sexual excitement centers exclusively on violent sex - she steals the sharp trawling hook and rubs it against herself. Bone's increasing fascination with violence and non-consensual sex reveals the depth of the wounds that Daddy Glen’s abuse has caused.
Disturbingly, Reese begins to exhibit many of the same behaviors as Bone. Reese emulates her male cousins, begging for pairs of their “old coveralls” (Allison 174). She even mirrors Bone’s wounded sexuality: masturbating frequently to violent and bizarre fantasies. While watching Reese enact a rape scene, Bone can see that her sister is imagining “someone, someone” doing “terrible things to her” (176). Reese’s behavior suggests that Daddy Glen has also molested her. It is plausible that in the absence of Daddy's Glen's usual victim, he has begun transferring his rage and sexual attention to Reese, who still lives at the home and is easily accessible. However, Bone does not yet seem fully aware of the implications of Reese’s strange sexual behavior.
In this section, Bone also becomes intensely invested in religion. Her love for gospel music sparks an interest in Christianity that briefly consumes her. She attends Sunday services and weekly youth Bible studies; she studiously reads the gospel after dinner. She dreams of converting and saving her uncles, and proselytizes to them whenever she can. For Bone, religion is another opportunity to search for the love and attention she craves. She finds comfort in the idea of an omnipotent God who offers unconditional love. Bone says of baptism ceremonies, “there was something heady and enthralling about being the object of all that attention” (Allison 151). She comes forward to be baptized fourteen different times in fourteen different churches, addicted to the feeling. Once the preachers stand ready to baptize her, however, Bone flees.
Bone’s enchantment with religion ends as precipitously as it began. Anney eventually forces Bone to complete a baptism, but it makes her feel empty and disappointed. Though still in love with gospel music and singing in general, Bone moves away from organized religion. Her experiences with the Pearl family deepen her distrust of religion. Mr. and Mrs. Pearl are naïve and spoil their daughter. Shannon and Bone often impersonate and mock Mrs. Pearl’s simple religious sentiments. Moreover, the gospel singers Bone meets drink excessively and even harass the young girls; Bone comments that there were constantly “hands reaching out to stroke our thighs and pinch the nipples we barely had” (Allison 163). Her final fight with Shannon (centered around racism and classism) seems to cement Bone’s growing distaste with the Pearl family and with religion.
Bone’s increasing anger begins to manifest itself in violence and criminality. Bone has previously expressed the desire to hurt people but she has yet to act on her impulses. She has fantasized about biting the manager at Woolworths but she controlled herself. After hearing Glen's family make fun of her family, Bone strips out a row of their rosebushes. However it isn’t until her argument with Shannon that she attempts to hurt another person. Bone, filled with rage at Shannon’s classist remarks, swings wildly at the girl, missing by chance and falling. This marks an unhealthy turn in the way Bone processes her anger. Later, Bone makes a plan to break into Woolworths with the trawling hooks she scavenged from the river. Instead of burning up inside of her, Bone's anger is now tumbling out.