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With all the fixings of a Johnny Cash song—love, loss, redemption—Campbell captures these Michiganders and their earthy, brutal paradise in tales rich with insight and well worth the trip. — Natasha Clark (Elle)
This is a splendid story of survival in extremis, with a searingly original heroine. — Parade
...the book is a violent but inspiring tale packed with colorful river dwellers, a working-class community of power company and metal workers, farmers, hunters and housewives....Campbell has created a character with an iron gut and a heart to match, recalling powerful heroines like Clara of Joyce Carol Oates' A Garden of Earthly Delights and Ree of Daniel Woodrell's Winter's Bone. — Liz Colville (NPR.org)
Starred Review. A dramatic and rhapsodic American odyssey. A female Huckleberry Finn. A wild-child-to-caring-woman story as intricately meshed with the natural life of the river as a myth. …she conveys all that Margo does, thinks, and feels with transfixing sensuous precision, from the jolt of a gun to the muscle burn of rowing a boat against the current to the weight of a man. From killing and skinning game to falling in with outlaws and finding refuge with kind if irascible strangers, Margo’s earthy education and the profound complexities of her timeless dilemmas are exquisitely rendered and mesmerizingly suspenseful. A glorious novel destined to entrance and provoke. — Booklist
Mark Twain owns America's rivers, and writers who venture out on those waters are obliged to acknowledge his dominion. Bonnie Jo Campbell's tough and confident Once Upon a River, about a runaway teenager on Michigan's waterways, pays due homage to the bard of the Mississippi, but the novel also tells its own captivating story — Sam Sacks (Wall Street Journal)
Campbell is a bard, a full-throated singer whose melodies are odes to farms and water and livestock and fishing rods and rifles, and to hardworking folks who know the value of life as well as the randomness of life's troubles. — Lisa Schwarzbaum (Entertainment Weekly)
It is, rather, an excellent American parable about the consequences of our favorite ideal, freedom. — New York Times Book Review
American fiction waited a long time for Bonnie Jo Campbell to come along. A lot of us, not only women, were looking for a fictional heroine who would be deeply good, brave as a wolverine, never a cry baby, as able as Sacagawea, with a strong and unapologetic sexuality. We wanted to feel her roots in some ancient story, we wanted Diana the huntress, but not her virginity; we wanted a real human girl who we could believe had been suckled by bears, or wolves. To give us heroines like this, the god finally brought us Bonnie Jo Campbell, one of our most important and necessary writers, and Margo Crane, the central character of Once Upon A River, an outcast, feral beauty who can shoot like Annie Oakley, is her most poignant and mythic creation so far. — Jaimy Gordon, National Book Award winner
Bonnie Jo Campbell teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Pacific University. The author of Once Upon a River and American Salvage, she lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan.