Once Upon a River
Once upon a river : a novel by Bonnie Jo Campbell — What if we were left to discover life, love and the world on our own at a very young age with no preconceived socially-defined rights and wrongs? This is one of the questions that Bonnie Jo Campbell will force you to ponder. The protagonist is 16-year-old Margo who sets out in a flat-bottomed teak rowboat on the Stark River in southwestern Michigan to find her mother, who has abandoned the family. Margo fashions herself after her hero, Annie Oakley, which adds a sense of timelessness to the novel — although unbelievably it is set in 1970. Margo sustains herself, and in fact thrives, in the face of every sort of adversity through a combination of courage, stubbornness and savvy. This novel is not, however, for the faint of heart. There’s incest, rape, murder and graphic descriptions of animal skinning, among other things. Though, like Jim Harrison's Michigan-based fiction, you will find yourself absorbed by Campbell's keen observations of the local environment.