×

Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

Once Upon a River
     

Once Upon a River

3.9 30
by Bonnie Jo Campbell
 

See All Formats & Editions

From the National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist—an odyssey of a novel about a girl's search for love and identity.
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

Overview

From the National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist—an odyssey of a novel about a girl's search for love and identity.
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.

Editorial Reviews

Elle
With all the fixings of a Johnny Cash song—love, loss, redemption—Campbell captures these Michiganders and their earthy, brutal paradise in tales rich with insight and well worth the trip.— Natasha Clark
Parade
This is a splendid story of survival in extremis, with a searingly original heroine.
NPR.org
...the book is a violent but inspiring tale packed with colorful river dwellers, a working-class community of power company and metal workers, farmers, hunters and housewives....Campbell has created a character with an iron gut and a heart to match, recalling powerful heroines like Clara of Joyce Carol Oates' A Garden of Earthly Delights and Ree of Daniel Woodrell's Winter's Bone.— Liz Colville
Booklist
“Starred Review. A dramatic and rhapsodic American odyssey. A female Huckleberry Finn. A wild-child-to-caring-woman story as intricately meshed with the natural life of the river as a myth. …she conveys all that Margo does, thinks, and feels with transfixing sensuous precision, from the jolt of a gun to the muscle burn of rowing a boat against the current to the weight of a man. From killing and skinning game to falling in with outlaws and finding refuge with kind if irascible strangers, Margo’s earthy education and the profound complexities of her timeless dilemmas are exquisitely rendered and mesmerizingly suspenseful. A glorious novel destined to entrance and provoke.”
Entertainment Weekly
Campbell is a bard, a full-throated singer whose melodies are odes to farms and water and livestock and fishing rods and rifles, and to hardworking folks who know the value of life as well as the randomness of life's troubles.— Lisa Schwarzbaum
New York Times Book Review
“It is, rather, an excellent American parable about the consequences of our favorite ideal, freedom.”
Wall Street Journal
Mark Twain owns America's rivers, and writers who venture out on those waters are obliged to acknowledge his dominion. Bonnie Jo Campbell's tough and confident Once Upon a River, about a runaway teenager on Michigan's waterways, pays due homage to the bard of the Mississippi, but the novel also tells its own captivating story— Sam Sacks
Natasha Clark - Elle
“With all the fixings of a Johnny Cash song—love, loss, redemption—Campbell captures these Michiganders and their earthy, brutal paradise in tales rich with insight and well worth the trip.”
Liz Colville - NPR.org
“...the book is a violent but inspiring tale packed with colorful river dwellers, a working-class community of power company and metal workers, farmers, hunters and housewives....Campbell has created a character with an iron gut and a heart to match, recalling powerful heroines like Clara of Joyce Carol Oates' A Garden of Earthly Delights and Ree of Daniel Woodrell's Winter's Bone.”
Sam Sacks - Wall Street Journal
“Mark Twain owns America's rivers, and writers who venture out on those waters are obliged to acknowledge his dominion. Bonnie Jo Campbell's tough and confident Once Upon a River, about a runaway teenager on Michigan's waterways, pays due homage to the bard of the Mississippi, but the novel also tells its own captivating story”
Lisa Schwarzbaum - Entertainment Weekly
“Campbell is a bard, a full-throated singer whose melodies are odes to farms and water and livestock and fishing rods and rifles, and to hardworking folks who know the value of life as well as the randomness of life's troubles.”
Jaimy Gordon
“American fiction waited a long time for Bonnie Jo Campbell to come along. A lot of us, not only women, were looking for a fictional heroine who would be deeply good, brave as a wolverine, never a cry baby, as able as Sacagawea, with a strong and unapologetic sexuality. We wanted to feel her roots in some ancient story, we wanted Diana the huntress, but not her virginity; we wanted a real human girl who we could believe had been suckled by bears, or wolves. To give us heroines like this, the god finally brought us Bonnie Jo Campbell, one of our most important and necessary writers, and Margo Crane, the central character of Once Upon A River, an outcast, feral beauty who can shoot like Annie Oakley, is her most poignant and mythic creation so far.”
Library Journal
This second novel by National Book Award finalist Campbell (American Salvage) is set in Murrayville, a rural Michigan town far removed from the modern world. Inhabitants have lived off the Stark River for generations, including 16-year-old Margo Crane's family. She's been taught the best fishing spots and knows the hidden dangers downstream from the Murray Metal Fabricating Plant. Her carefree existence ends when her mother, a depressed alcoholic, leaves town, and Margo is raped by her uncle Cal. Margo's unique revenge leads to her father's death, a tragic event that nevertheless sets her free from being at the mercy of the Murrays. Equipped with ammunition, food, her father's ashes, and a pink envelope with her mother's return address, she takes her father's boat downstream, determined to find her mother. Margo survives by hunting, fishing, and garden pilfering and by distrusting people. Her river odyssey ultimately leads to self-preservation on her terms. VERDICT A truthful and deeply human story that pulls us in and won't let go. Readers looking for superior fiction are in for an uplifting, first-rate story. [See Prepub Alert, 1/10/11.]—Donna Bettencourt, Mesa Cty. P.L., Grand Junction, CO
Jane Smiley
It would be too bad if, because of Campbell's realistic style and ferocious attention to her setting, Once Upon a River were discounted as merely a fine example of American regionalism. It is, rather, an excellent American parable about the consequences of our favorite ideal, freedom.
—The New York Times

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393079890
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
07/05/2011
Pages:
348
Sales rank:
1,405,250
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

Bonnie Jo Campbell teaches in the low-residency MFA program at
Pacific University. The author of Once
Upon a River and American Salvage,
she lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

Once upon a River 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I didn't find this book enjoyable whatsoever. With about 100 pages to go, I started skimming descriptive paragraphs (and focused on dialogue)just to get it over with. If I had borrowed this book from the library, I would have returned it without finishing it. Since I paid for it, I felt obligated (to myself) to finish.
McGuffyAnn More than 1 year ago
It is 1970s Michigan. When her father is killed, 16 year old Margo Crane loads a rowboat with supplies, along with her rifle, and sets off in search of her mother. Margo doesn't consider this dangerous, as the river is her sanctuary, her salvation. She also has her favourite book, the book of her personal inspiration: Annie Oakley. This river journey through Michigan becomes one of self exploration and self discovery. It is a defining journey for Margo. She will meet with many hardscrabble people, and encounter experiences beyond the normal for a 16 year old girl. But Margo is not the normal 16 year old. Once again, Bonnie Jo Campbell has written a unique book, filled with characters and situations that life is really made of. It is intense, even harsh at times. This book will take you on quite a ride!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I absorbed Margo's experience like warm sunshine on a spring day. Expertly told tale of personhood, growth and survival.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Doesn't nook your socks off or anything, but a fun read. Had some problems accepting some of the plot line on a this isn't super realistic level. But the protagonist is well developed and it was overall entertaining.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
whateverJC More than 1 year ago
Well written but didn't like the story. Main character too blood thirsty and short sighted. Pictured a future with social services taking the baby and Margo becoming a homeless bag lady.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found the charactors interesting and realistic. I was once the too quiet, introvert, too. Now I am living in the Kalamazoo area, and I find many people of the types depicted in this good book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago