Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell

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Margo, a strikingly beautiful, quiet teenager with a talent for shooting as accurately as any sharp shooter in Michigan, was content as long as she was near the river she lived on.  Even as her own small family dwindled, with the departure of her mother, she was able to be helpful to her father and enjoy her extended family across the river.  Unfortunately, a frightening incident with her uncle led to the collapse of the world she knew and only her survival skills enabled her to move on and save herself from the many dangers around her.

This was an intriguing but slightly implausible story.  The writing is excellent – simple, quiet, and pensive, as one imagines Margo to be.  She is of the earth and the river, and the descriptions of the natural habitat around her are beautiful.  The story is tragic, however.  Even when there are good things happening to Margo, there is still a sadness to the story that sort of hangs over the words.  And there are many moments during which I felt the story went beyond what one might believe could actually occur.

Nevertheless, the almost dreamy quality of the descriptions of Margo’s life on the river make this book absolutely a worthwhile read.

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