Rose's Reviews > Once Upon a River

Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell
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Nov 05, 2011

it was amazing
Read in September, 2011

Would it be enough to say, "This is a superb book. READ IT"? Because the reviews of this book made me want to NOT read it, but somehow the book lured me anyway. Essentially it's the story of a teen-age girl who is raped and abandoned and runs away from home to live by her wits -- her rifle, her ability to skin animals and catch fish and build fires, her knowledge of nature's power and its gifts. Mostly people who live by their wits in books lie and steal and eat out of dumpsters. This young girl does her share of stealing, out of sheer necessity; she takes a few hits of marijuana along the way and a sip or two of whiskey, but even though she ends up a pregnant high school drop-out, she is never a bummer. She is victimized, but she is not a victim. She learns from life the hard way, and she takes pleasure in caring for herself. And then there's all the stuff about nature. I'm not a fan of reading about nature, generally, even though I understand that writing about it is a sign of both virtue and higher consciousness. But nature in this novel is not just observed, it is lived. This is one of those books that can change your life because you enter into it so fully you feel as though you too are living on that river. And the pages turn and turn because of course, you want to know what happens to yourself. And for a day or two, after you finish Once Upon a River, you feel more appreciative of the ragged contours of your own life, even though it has very little to do with nature. You may never be able to shoot, skin, or cook anything you've shot or skinned over an open fire, but hell, at least you can recycle.
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