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The Bones of Paradise

The Bones of Paradise

5.0 1
by Jonis Agee

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The award-winning author of The River Wife returns with a multigenerational family saga set in the unforgiving Nebraska Sand Hills in the years following the massacre at Wounded Knee—an ambitious tale of history, vengeance, race, guilt, betrayal, family, and belonging, filled with a vivid cast of characters shaped by violence, love, and a


The award-winning author of The River Wife returns with a multigenerational family saga set in the unforgiving Nebraska Sand Hills in the years following the massacre at Wounded Knee—an ambitious tale of history, vengeance, race, guilt, betrayal, family, and belonging, filled with a vivid cast of characters shaped by violence, love, and a desperate loyalty to the land.

Ten years after the Seventh Cavalry massacred more than two hundred Lakota men, women, and children at Wounded Knee, J.B. Bennett, a white rancher, and Star, a young Native American woman, are murdered in a remote meadow on J.B.’s land. The deaths bring together the scattered members of the Bennett family: J.B.’s cunning and hard father, Drum; his estranged wife, Dulcinea; and his teenage sons, Cullen and Hayward. As the mystery of these twin deaths unfolds, the history of the dysfunctional Bennetts and their damning secrets is revealed, exposing the conflicted heart of a nation caught between past and future.

At the center of The Bones of Paradise are two remarkable women. Dulcinea, returned after bitter years of self-exile, yearns for redemption and the courage to mend her broken family and reclaim the land that is rightfully hers. Rose, scarred by the terrible slaughters that have decimated and dislocated her people, struggles to accept the death of her sister, Star, and refuses to rest until she is avenged.

A kaleidoscopic portrait of misfits, schemers, chancers, and dreamers, Jonis Agee’s bold novel is a panorama of America at the dawn of a new century. A beautiful evocation of this magnificent, blood-soaked land—its sweeping prairies, seas of golden grass, and sandy hills, all at the mercy of two unpredictable and terrifying forces, weather and lawlessness—and the durable men and women who dared to tame it. Intimate and epic, The Bones of Paradise is a remarkable achievement: a mystery, a tragedy, a romance, and an unflagging exploration of the beauty and brutality, tenderness and cruelty that defined the settling of the American West.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Agee’s (The River Wife) emotionally rich tale is as wild and sprawling as the Midwestern plains. This is the Nebraska Sandhills a decade after the army’s massacre of more than 200 Lakota at Wounded Knee in 1890. When middle-aged white rancher J.B. Bennett and the younger Native American Star are murdered, apparently together, their families collide. J.B.’s wife, Dulcinea, estranged from her sons through the machinations of his J.B.’s father, Drum, seeks reconciliation with her boys even as she wrestles to maintain rights to the ranch that Drum wants back, no matter the means. Meanwhile, Rose’s efforts to solve the murder of her sister, Star, threaten her long friendship with Dulcinea. The evolving friendship of Dulcinea and Rose is a poignant counterpoint to the cruelties born of ignorance and greed in the face of cultural difference. The story’s several parts—gritty Western, family saga, mystery—work together for a memorable tale of heartbreak and redemption. Agent: Emma Sweeney, Emma Sweeny Agency. (Aug.)
New York Journal of Books
“The finest western novel since Lonesome Dove, Jonis Agee’s The Bones of Paradise is an epic saga with elements of a Greek tragedy.”
San Antonio Express-News
“A beautiful writer, [Agee is] back with a multigenerational saga set in the Nebraska Sand Hills—this is Cormac McCarthy country—in the years after the massacre at Wounded Knee. Agee has created indelible characters and a story that will stay with you for a long time.”
Jim Shepard
The Bones of Paradise is about the way those we love can bring us a new language and help us make it ours, and in so doing teach us how to ride in concert with the world.”
“Agee’s fast-paced narrative resembles the expansive prose of Larry McMurtry. Her lyrical writing and attention to detail evoke comparisons to Annie Proulx. . . . A captivating tale of life—and death—in the old American West.”
Dallas Morning News
The Bones of Paradise is part noir, part Western, and all kinds of good . . . a remarkable tale of greed and violence . . . Jonis Agee is a master novelist.”
Stewart O'Nan
“Deadwood has nothing on Nebraska’s Sand Hills. Jonis Agee serves up a gritty, bloody romance set a decade after Wounded Knee. Half murder mystery and half family saga, The Bones of Paradise is a spirited reweaving of history.”
Booklist (starred review)
“A haunting tale . . . Agee brilliantly interweaves two stories of loss, guilt, and vengeance, which play out against the vivid backdrop of the [Nebraska] Sand Hills . . . Beautifully rendered and thought-provoking.”
Ron Rash
“From the opening image of a ‘windmill slowly clanking in a wobbly circle’ to the sublime final sentence, Jonis Agee’s The Bones of Paradise is a beautifully written epic that seamlessly intertwines a family’s history with a region’s, and, ultimately, with a nation’s. This is an ambitious novel.”
Library Journal
The Sand Hills of 1890s Nebraska are a harsh, demanding place. Rancher J.B. Bennett is trying his best to flourish in adverse conditions, despite his controlling father, absent wife, and estranged son. But he doesn't get much of a chance; within the novel's first few pages, he finds a murdered Lakota woman on his land. Unfortunately for him the killer is still around to get rid of any witnesses. These two murders set the tone for this historical saga. Dulcinea, the absent wife, returns to avenge J.B. and reconcile with her sons, but it is not as easy as she had hoped. Meanwhile, her friend Rose investigates the death of her sister, the Lakota woman killed alongside J.B. The roots of these events lie in the decade-old horrors of the massacre of more than 200 Lakota people at Wounded Knee. With larger-than-life personalities, sudden violence, and the relentless influence of landscape and weather, this Western by the author of The River Wife is an evocative story of survival, and the lengths people will go to for wealth and property. VERDICT With strong historical content as well as a murder mystery, family dysfunction, and a hint of romance, there is plenty here to keep readers satisfied. [See Prepub Alert, 2/21/16; library marketing.]—Melanie Kindrachuk, Stratford P.L., Ont.
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2016-05-22
A deceptively leisurely, intensely heart-rending historical Western about greed and love gone wrong, set in the Sand Hills of Nebraska 10 years after the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre of the Lakota Sioux at the Pine Ridge Reservation in nearby South Dakota.Hoping to reunite his family and win back his wife, Dulcinea, rancher J.B. Bennett is on his way to retrieve his older son, Cullen, from his father, Drum, who has raised the 19-year-old for 10 years. When J.B. stops to examine the body of a recently strangled young Lakota Sioux named Star, someone he evidently knows shoots him dead. Down-and-out cowboy Ry Graver stumbles across the bodies and is also shot, but only wounded, by the same or perhaps another unseen assailant. Soon Dulcinea returns to the ranch, hoping to rebuild her relationships with Cullen and his 15-year-old brother, Hayward, who was raised by J.B. after Drum took Cullen and Dulcinea left for reasons that emerge slowly and make cruel sense only within the context of Drum's belief in his family's destiny. Dulcinea hires a creepily attractive lawyer, Percival Chance, to prove J.B. deeded the ranch to her and hires Graver to help her manage the farm. Dulcinea's best friend is Star's sister Rose, whom she met while teaching at Pine Ridge. Both want to learn the murderer's identity, but while Rose wants revenge and believes the killings have to do with Wounded Knee—Agee (The River Wife, 2007, etc.) doesn't scrimp on gruesome detail in recounting the massacre attended by most of the novel's male characters—Dulcinea fears that the guilty party is someone she cares about. Meanwhile, local ranchers itching to sell their oil drilling rights pressure Dulcinea to go along. She resists; Rose and Dulcinea are women strong enough to cow John Wayne. This sexy, violent, intricate Western is ultimately a love letter to the Sand Hills, "where all was alive, all living, in one form or another."

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
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Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.50(d)

Meet the Author

Jonis Agee has been praised by the New York Times Book Review as “a gifted poet of that dark lushness in the heart of the American landscape.” She is the award-winning author of twelve books, including the New York Times Notable Books of the Year Sweet Eyes and Strange Angels. Her awards include the John Gardner Fiction Award, the George Garrett Award, a National Endowment for the Arts grant in fiction, a Loft-McKnight Award, a Loft-McKnight Award of Distinction, and two Nebraska Book Awards. A native of Nebraska, Agee teaches at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

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The Bones of Paradise 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a character driven western mystery novel. Sometimes I loved the characters than I hated them and on and on. Just a fascinating tale. The novel includes desertion, death, murder, slaughter, evil, betrayal, swindle, selfishness, forgery, and more. It is a story of a family torn apart from within. Highly recommended! This book definately deserves an A++++