Once Upon a River: A Novel
by Bonnie Jo Campbell
Hardcover- $19.68

From the National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist?an odyssey of a novel about a girl's search for love and ...

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  "It didn’t grab me" by ebach (see profile) 09/01/11

ONCE UPON A RIVER by Bonnie Jo Campbell begins with description of the natural surroundings in the rural Michigan area where the story takes place and Margo Crane’s interaction with them. Margo is a teenager. Maybe because I’m an adult and teenagers who aren’t my relatives bore me, this wasn’t a good beginning for me.

The book continues with Margo’s story.
• She’s gorgeous.
• She doesn’t talk much.
• She is exceptionally good with a gun.
• Her grandfather Murray had one of his children, her father, out of wedlock. His other son, Cal, and Cal’s family live right across the Snake River from her family.
• She has a beautiful mother who hated the life in rural Michigan so took off, promising to return for Margo, except she didn’t.
• Margo lives with her very short father who did work at a metal shop and now works at a grocery store for much less money.

That Margo is gorgeous turns out to be a problem. While most would count this as a lucky asset, in her case, it just means trouble. That’s because, in this book, too many grown men in rural Michigan can’t keep their hands off beautiful teenage girls.

And Margo says nothing. Her father (who Margo thinks of as Crane, their last name) wants to go to the police in one instance, but she will say nothing. And she continues to say nothing when she should be speaking up, maybe yelling, kicking, and screaming, throughout the book.

Many writers use this device, but it is not a good sign. That is, when a character is wronged but refuses to talk about it or defend herself, it seems that the author couldn’t think of a better reason for what happens next. Besides, this device is terribly frustrating and makes the story predictable.

Other readers of ONCE UPON A RIVER post mostly praise for the book on the Internet. So I think it must be a good book for some. But it’s not for everyone.

My trouble with this book is that it didn’t grab me. That’s because no character, Margo in particular, was given enough depth for me to care about her. If you think, as I do, that this style is more appropriate for a short story, then this book may not be for you.

  "Still figuring out whether I liked this book" by Hillrat6 (see profile) 10/13/11

I read this as a potential suggestion for a book club choice, but several days later, I'm still wondering if I really liked it. As the mother of a teenaged daughter, I found the events befalling Margo, the main character, disturbing, if not downright repugnant. Her actions were questionable, but then, she is 16 and I'm . . . well, much older than that! I certainly learned a lot about roughing it and gun usage, two topics that still are not on my bucket list. Overall, the author's writing style was fluid; I just didn't enjoy the travails Margo endured throughout the story.

  "Expected more" by JanetLP (see profile) 02/03/12

I wanted to empathize with the main character but I just never gott to the point of caring.

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