Once Upon a River

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. (Summary and cover courtesy of goodreads.com)


I found myself very indifferent about this book.  We never get a good sense of what is going through Margo’s head so I never felt invested in the story.  That is partially because she never set herself free to relax from the stoic face she puts on, but also partially because the author didn’t do a good job describing scenes that had to do with people (to me).

My biggest annoyance with the book was that for a “strong, independent” female protagonist, Margo spent a lot of time stumbling from bed to bed as it was convenient.  I never got the sense that she stayed somewhere because she wanted to, but rather because it was convenient and the circumstances fell into her lap.  I kept waiting for the moment she would set herself free on the river and take charge of her own adventure.  Instead, the story just meandered along until there was a convenient ending.

Warning: Contains repeated sexual assault, violence and alcohol abuse.

Rating: 3 stars!

Who should read it? Folks who really like hunting and can handle repeated rape in a story.