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One Good Mama Bone

4.37  ·  Rating details ·  698 ratings  ·  194 reviews
2017 Willie Morris Award for Southern Fiction winner
2019 Patricia Winn Award for Southern Literature
Great Group Reads 2017 selection by Women's National Book Association
Finalist for 2017 Crooks Corner Book Prize
SIBA OKRA pick Winter 2017
SIBA Trio 2018 selection
Pulpwood Queen Book of the Year 2017

Set in early 1950s rural South Carolina, One Good Mama Bone chronicles Sarah
Hardcover, 280 pages
Published February 14th 2017 by University of South Carolina Press
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4.37  · 
Rating details
 ·  698 ratings  ·  194 reviews

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Angela M
Jan 13, 2017 rated it really liked it

I just read a book about a woman who talks to a cow and discovers that she can learn something from this cow and this city born and raised girl liked it. Well, it's not really about only that, although Big Red and her steer Lucky are a big part of the story, it's about so much more. It's about poverty and infidelity and a gift - a little boy named Emerson Bridge and the strength that one pulls from deep within when you can't see that it's there. It's about some devious people as well as good peo
Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
I feel like my heart was opened up to all kinds of emotions and then swallowed whole. I finished reading it just a few short minutes ago and did not know if this non-crier would be able to see well enough with my tear-filled eyes to write this review.

One Good Mama Bone reads like a classic. The character development is flawless; each was fleshed out in three dimension, including the tenderly-drawn animals. Since the setting is rural South Carolina on a cattle farm, having spent time on a family
I will first express my views on the reading experience, and then share some cattle stories with you, since this book centers around a boy and his steer, and his mother's bond with the mother-cow.

Mary Alice Monroe says in the foreword to the book:
This is a novel that just might break your heart, and it might well heal it too, but with both acts Bren McClain will remind you of why each of us is entrusted with a heart in the first place—to love, to learn, to make the hard choices, and to feel dee
May 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: southern
I really connected with this book because I too was 4-Her that showed cattle. So a lot of the farming side of the plot was familiar. For a reader with no livestock background this could be a very strange read at times. The book was unique in the fact that some of the perspective came from a cow.
The human character's mostly broke my heart mainly because most of them felt inadequate and that they weren't enough for the ones they loved or looked up to. Most didn't realize how strong and capable th
Bren McClain
May 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
I wrote it. I better believe in it.
Suzanne Leopold (Suzy Approved Book Reviews)
In rural South Carolina in the early 1950’s, Sarah Creamer adopts her best friend’s baby boy after her tragic suicide. Seven years later when Sarah’s husband dies, she is left without the resources to care for Emerson. She has never had a real job and is short on money and family support. She fears that she doesn't have the mothering skills to raise this child on her own.

Sarah has been struggling to support her family by making dresses for the local women and is barely surviving. One day, Sarah
Diane Barnes
Mar 30, 2017 rated it liked it
It's hard to review this one without feeling like I'm being unfair to an author who put her heart and soul into her first novel. My previous two reads were excellent books by accomplished authors, and this one naturally suffered by comparison. It was a wonderful story with pockets of really great writing, but some problems with characters that make me feel like I'm nitpicking to mention. I'll think about this one and may revisit this review later.
Sharon Metcalf
Jan 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
At this moment, only minutes after finishing One Good Mama Bone by Bren McClain, I'm feeling stunned at just how good this book was. I thought it would be a decent book as I recalled some favourable reviews but this was above and beyond all expectations. In the Foreword Mary Alice Monroe wrote
" This is a novel that just might break your heart, and it might well heal it too, but with both acts Bren McClain will remind you of why each of us is entrusted with a heart in the first place—to love, to
Jun 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. Having grown up on a farm, I could enjoy and relate to the experience of raising livestock and 4-H. Beautiful, simple, words written in this book to describe a mother's love and protection of her children. Children both adopted and blood related. A story of strength and perseverance. A story of love and what animals can teach us.

My only real criticism of One Good Mama Bone is where the author took one young characters' story a bit too far to be realistic. I'll not spo
Darlyn Kuhn
Nov 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
At least a decade ago, I sat in the 16th floor ballroom of the historic Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky, and listened to a group of fellow Spalding MFA students read from their works in progress. Many were passable; a few were darn good. And then Bren McClain stood up and read what would become the first chapter of One Good Mama Bone. About three sentences in, I leaned forward in my chair, transfixed. Soon, I forgot to breathe. When McClain finished her piece, there was the kind of hush that ...more
Nov 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: southern-fiction
When the novel begins Sarah's best friend is delivering the baby of her husband's girlfriend. The best friend dies right after the birth and Sarah and her husband are left the raise the baby that they named Jefferson Bridge. Life is rural South Carolina in the early 50s is tough and there is often no food to eat in the house - especially after her husband loses his job and uses what little money they have to buy alcohol. He dies very early in the story and Sarah is left to raise Jefferson Bridge ...more
Danielle Woods
May 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book about love, learning, maternal instinct and sacrifice! Bren has an amazing first book and she's a great story-teller. She brings to life a story brought to life in a little over 250 pages. The love of a mother and child is amazing. The bond that grows, even if it isn't your child is strong and can't be broken. I laughed and I cried throughout the book and I might not look at a cow the same way again.
Leah Weiss
Apr 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a jewel of a book - clever, gut-wrenching, powerful. Such strong voices. If the goal of good writing is to "make me care" - then this book did. I recommend without reservation.
Craig Faris
Apr 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Are You Ready For The Next "To Kill A Mockingbird?" Well, here it is!, April 3, 2017
By Craig Faris (amended)
(Story River Books) (Hardcover)

I loved this so much that I bought two copies, the hardback and the audio book. Brenda McClain, is our modern day Harper Lee, and this, her debut' novel, is truly the next "To Kill a Mockingbird." It was everything that I had hoped for and more. The writing is from the heart; the story is so moving that it brings you to tears; the emotions and the love for t
Eldonna Edwards
Nov 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed the audible version of ONE GOOD MAMA BONE while on my daily walks and let me tell you, I've never been more motivated to lace up my sneaks each day to get back to this book! The story is haunting, the prose stunning and the narration downright exquisite. Told from multiple points of view, the book opens with Mama Red as she gives birth to twin calves. Any writer who can get inside of a cow's head in such a visceral way and make the reader identify so beautifully with the tormented anim ...more
Oct 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What in the world?! A book told partly through the eyes of a COW?? I read a description of the book before reading the actual book and I remember thinking, "Okay, this will either be ridiculous or GREAT." It's such a risk.

For me, Bren McClain's risk paid off. This book sneaked up on me. It started simply but became deep and complex. I was gamely reading along, thinking, okay, good, I like it, and then it almost sucker-punched me... as if to say, "I'm going to make you feel things, even though yo
Lolly K Dandeneau
Nov 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
“I’m bringing him back to you. This is your baby, not mine. Don’t you put this on me!”

The door does not open.

Sarah places her ear against the wooden surface and strains to hear Mattie’s footsteps inside., hear the creaks her barely one hundred pounds would make. But the baby’s cries do not allow for that.

Sarah kicks at the door and beats it with her fist, beats it hard. “I mean it, Mattie. I ain’t no Mama. You his Mama. Bet he’s got your dimples. Now come get him. Come get him now!”

Mama Bone i
Jenny Belk
Jan 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes I discover a new book that leaves an imprint on my heart. It's like discovering something fantastic that you want everyone to know about. I never would have thought that this story about a mama cow (Mama Red) and her calf (Lucky) would touch me so deeply and fill my heart full of joy.
This is the story of a mama cow and her calf that teaches a human mother and her child unconditional love, perseverance, bravery, and bittersweet sacrifice for those we love. It's about never giving up.
Linda Zagon
Oct 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
WOW!!!Kudos to Bren McClane, Author of “One Good Mama Bone”, for such a captivating, insightful, intense, emotional, and thought- provoking novel. Bren McClane’s vivid descriptions of the rural South Carolina landscape in the early 1950’s and her colorful cast of characters are absolutely amazing. The Genres for this novel are Fiction and Historical Fiction. The author weaves many important topics together to tell this story. One of the questions that comes to mind, Is it Nature or Nurture that ...more
Deb Stern
Mar 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I wish I could rate this more than 5 stars. I have never read anything like this. I loved it so much I could have finished it very quickly, but then I purchased the audio version. That's how I usually read, going back and forth between audio and book. However, once I listened to Bren give life to the characters with her voice, I could not read the book anymore. I was transfixed while listening to her. I did not want to simply read to finish the book. I savored every moment of the story. This boo ...more
Feb 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: library, favorites
I picked this up from a bookstagram recommendation and loved it! The characters are well developed and this is well written. Out since April with only one copy in our library system and I am the first to read it. Highly recommended when in the mood for a classic southern story. Lots to reflect on being a a mama.
Feb 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Best book I’ve read so far in 2019! Beautifully and creatively written heart-breaking and heart-warming story. I loved the intricacies of the characters, especially of LC Dobbins, a father who loves his boy and can’t find a way to tell him; and the parallels between the main character, Sarah Creamer, who thinks she is learning to become a mother, and the mama cow. This is a book to be read slowly and savored. Highly recommend. 9.75/10.
Jeannine Mallory
Feb 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book grabbed me and hasn't let go. I am reading it for a third time because I don’t know that another book could change my life the way this one has. After I had read the first ten words, I knew I'd found a writer the likes of which we haven't seen in decades. I knew I was in for an almost immersive experience, one where I wouldn't be able to read a few pages, then put the book down for a couple of days. I knew I would be with this writer–and the amazingly complex-yet-simple story she share ...more
C.P. Lesley
Once in a while, a novel comes along that is just extraordinary, in the best sense of that word. Bren McClain’s One Good Mama Bone falls into this category. In little more than 250 pages, McClain brings to life in spare but lyrical prose an unforgettable cast of characters struggling with poverty, family, and reputation against the backdrop of the early 1950s rural US South. Perhaps her most remarkable creation is Mama Red, a cow near the end of her useful life whose dedication to her calf becom ...more
Susan Peterson
Dec 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One Good Mama Bone is a book that will reach into the depths of your heart and soul...a book that is unsettling and sad, but at the same time hopeful and full of goodwill. Sarah Creamer was told by her own mama that she didn’t have one good mama bone, and when Sarah’s husband dies and she’s left alone to raise her son, she’s convinced that her mama was right. But she knows she must learn how to be a good mother, and she learns what it truly means to be a mother from a most unexpected teacher. Th ...more
Donna Everhart
Oct 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I'd give it ten stars if I could.

Oh, what a story, with the sense of time and place set so solidly on the pages, when you stop reading it might take you a second to realize you're actually still in your house, on your couch, or chair, and no, you have not entered Sarah Creamer's world. But you'll believe you have - just for that split second. You might need to take a breath before you plunge back in. I had to - several times.

I'll tell you this, I've always hated seeing that one lone steer hauled
Danny Johnson
Apr 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One of the finest Southern Fiction books I have read in many amazing debut novel...
May 16, 2019 added it
My personal "star" rating system:
1 star: Could not finish the book
2 star: Had to force myself to finish the book, did not care for the book, and will not be seeking out this author in the future
3 star: Liked the book, but will not necessarily be seeking out this author in the future
4 star: Really liked the book and would read more of this author, but will not be re-reading this particular book again
5 star: Loved it so much that I will re-read this book in the future, and the author is going onto
Julie Ann Cook
Mar 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One Good Mama Bone, A Novel by Bren McClain, absolutely rocked my little world. Set in the 50's in rural South Carolina, it's not the type of thing I'd naturally pick up. But I heard Bren share from it at an author event, and I knew I wanted to read it... before someone picked up the movie rights!

One Good Mama Bone is, above all else, a love story. But NOT a romance! Bren explores the relationships of mother and son, father and son, mother and daughter, woman to woman, man to man, husband and w
Padgett Gerler
Mar 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Bren McClain’s ONE GOOD MAMA BONE is prose that reads like poetry—with words so rich they taste sweet.

Sara Creamer’s life is broken—from a cruel mother who ridiculed her obesity and proclaimed she didn’t have even one good mama bone to a child born of an adulterous affair between her husband, Harold, and her best friend, Mattie.

But Sara Creamer is a survivor—a survivor who takes in Harold and Mattie’s child, Emerson Bridge, to raise as her own after both Harold and Mattie die. And in doing so, S
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