A highly promoted summer read, the reviews implied this was a female Huck Finn, and maybe it's been too long since I read Huck Finn because I remember it was a story where bad things happen to a boy and he takes off. That it's filled with hope and courage and a boy trying to figure out what kind of man he's going to be. This story begins with the rape of a fifteen year old girl and then even more terrible things begin to happen to her. It's more Winter's Bone than Huck Finn. It's a tale about how stoicism and hardship, about loss of love, loss of comfort. You're forced to watch a young woman's life cut to the bone and then further and it's not pleasant.
That's how I would sum it up -- Once Upon a River is not a pleasant read.