Once Upon a River

Bonnie Jo Campbell

A girl with a gun fights for survival in the American wilderness, in a tale that will enthral fans of The Hunger Games and True Grit.

After the violent death of her father, in which she is complicit, Margo Crane takes to the Stark River in her boat, with only a few supplies and a biography of Annie Oakley, in search of her vanished mother.

But the river, Margo’s childhood paradise, is a dangerous place for a young woman travelling alone, and she must be strong to survive, using her knowledge of the natural world and her ability to look unsparingly into the hearts of those around her. Her river odyssey through rural Michigan becomes a defining journey, one that leads her beyond self-preservation and to deciding what price she is willing to pay for her choices.

Reviews of Once Upon a River

    • ‘With all the fixings of a Johnny Cash song — love, loss, redemption — Campbell captures these Michiganders and their earthy, brutal paradise in a tale rich with insight’ Elle
    • ‘An excellent American parable about the consequences of our favorite ideal, freedom.” – Jane Smiley, The New York Times
    • Irresistible… As her odyseey unfolds, through encounters with the men she meets along the way—brawlers, boatmen, drug dealers, trappers—she tries to sort out what it means to have the power to end a human life when you’ve hardly begun your own.”— The New Yorker
    • ‘ … the self-reliant teenage heroine of Once Upon a River made the book a beguiling and addictive read … reminiscent of Winter Bone’s Ree Dolly or The Hunger Games’ Katnis Everdeen … fascinating … I found myself drawn to the pace of Campbell’s narrative as well as the haunting descriptions of the Stark River.’ Stylist
    • ‘Vivid and mesmerizing…a gripping story’ Entertainment Weekly
    • ‘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’ Starred review, Booklist
    • ‘Campbell’s precise eye for detail makes her descriptions of Margo’s travels utterly convincing, showing her readers that the loves of humans are as closely intertwined with the natural world as the emotions of love and hate’ We Love this Book