Thursday, July 28, 2011

"Anyone looking for a contemplative study of character need to read this," says April

Once Upon a River
Bonnie Jo Campbell has created an unforgettable heroine in sixteen-year-old Margo Crane, a beauty whose unflinching gaze and uncanny ability with a rifle have not made her life any easier. After the violent death of her father, in which she is complicit, Margo takes to the Stark River in her boat, with only a few supplies and a biography of Annie Oakley, in search of her vanished mother. But the river, Margo's childhood paradise, is a dangerous place for a young woman traveling alone, and she must be strong to survive, using her knowledge of the natural world and her ability to look unsparingly into the hearts of those around her. Her river odyssey through rural Michigan becomes a defining journey, one that leads her beyond self-preservation and to the decision of what price she is willing to pay for her choices.

April says:
"Margaret Louise "Margo" Crane is just like any other teenage girl in small town Michigan. Truly.  She lives on a river with her father (and her mother until her mother left) surrounded by nature and several branches of her tangled family tree.  Her grandfather, Old Man Murray, favors her above his plethora of grandsons because she can sit quietly for hours in a fishing boat.  To be frank, Margo speaks as much as a doe does.  Out of season.

Her paradise is much murkier than she knows though.  Shortly after her grandfather dies, she is raped by her uncle; and the series of repercussions leads her to the Stark River--her last solace.  On the river, Margo survives with the skills her grandfather gave her, a stolen rifle, and an obsession with Annie Oakley.

The book progresses much like a canoe trip down any river:  Regular off-beat noise of one's paddle hitting the side of the canoe, minutes without anything moving followed by thirty seconds worth of cacophony and mayhem.  There is not a lot of dialogue, but the novel never feels like the narrator is simply telling you a story.  The reader is there with her.  You can feel the water under her boat.  Margo grows as she moves from
temporary haven to temporary haven; she is smart and hard to shake.

Any Michigander who misses their home river should pick up this book.  Anyone looking for a contemplative study of character needs to read this."

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