Melissa Crytzer Fry's Reviews > The Bones of Paradise

The Bones of Paradise by Jonis Agee
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Mar 15, 2017

really liked it

I’m not generally a reader of mysteries, and frankly, I’m not sure this novel can be billed as one. It is a fabulous conglomerate: a family saga, literary fiction, historical fiction, a love story, a western, and a mystery all wrapped into one.

Admittedly, the mystery component of ‘what really happened to JB and Star that fateful day?’ (no spoilers here) kept me turning pages. But what kept me the most rapt was that this novel is told almost exclusively by what ISN’T being said between characters. Jonis Agee’s ability to show intention, thought, and emotion through facial expressions, gestures, and body language is unmatched. I’m still floored. These characters are painfully flawed and have been wronged and hurt and hurt some more. I could see these people twitch their eyes, hear the breath come from their troubled lips, feel their hesitation and heaviness of heart. Not only that, the author knows horses, and you will know them, too, by the end of this tale: how gentle and ornery and smart they are; how much finesse is required for human-horse trust. And for that matter, the author understands, intimately, the complexities of human-to-human interaction.

Agee’s descriptions of the stark landscape and the theme of humans’ quest for land were both so emotionally taut. And then, of course, the horrors of Wounded Knee are central to this book (I read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee as a college student and still shiver thinking about it). This book does such an incredible job of questioning that slippery definition of ‘history,’ based on which ‘side’ is telling the story. The novel sheds some ugly truths about this period in American history that, again, should be required reading for us all.

This is a story about mothers and sons, sons and fathers, ambition, greed, desire, the power of evil, the value of hard work. Rich in historical detail, and its own moments of breathtaking beauty, this is a wonderful character-driven novel that will hold you in its grip long after you’ve turned the last page. Love literary historical fiction? This one’s for you.
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Quotes Melissa Liked

Jonis Agee
“She stooped to pick a wild pink rose, avoiding the tiny spines that slivered like unseen glass hairs onto one's fingers. There was little scent, but the creamy softness of the petals like the insides of a dog's ear more than made up for it. She placed one on her tongue, and imagined she could taste the hills, the bittersweet tang of life.”
Jonis Agee, The Bones of Paradise


Reading Progress

Started Reading
March 15, 2017 – Shelved
March 15, 2017 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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Cheri Lovely review, Melissa, your review really does this incredible book justice! Loved "This is a story about mothers and sons, sons and fathers, ambition, greed, desire, the power of evil, the value of hard work." Just thinking of this book, remembering it, is enough to give me pause.


Melissa Crytzer Fry Thanks, Cheri. I will be thinking about this one for a very long time. I still marvel at the author's ability to "show" emotion.


Cheri Hopefully someone will come along months after you've read this and remind you of all these wonderful moments in this book, as you have done for me! So grateful for that, Melissa!!


message 4: by Barbara (new)

Barbara Great review Melissa!


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