Historical Fiction: Bone River, by Megan Chance

Bone River

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bone River is a mystery, but it’s less a “who-dunnit” than a “what was done.” Leonie Russell was raised in the Pacific northwest by her ethnologist father, who trained her to take up his own line of work and study. She always tried to be a good daughter and a good scientist, and when her father died, she trustingly married the man he chose for her, his associate Junius Russell. Together they made a life collecting Native American artifacts and selling oysters, and Lea’s only regret is that she never had children. But a pair of surprising events occur that shake her to her core, her discovery of a mummy buried along the riverbank, and the arrival several weeks later of Junius’ twenty-six year old son, Daniel, about whose existence Lea had been ignorant.

Megan Chance is a writer who is adept at creating genuine, compelling characters and intriguing plot lines that involve, but are not superseded by, spiritual, often mystical elements. In Bone River, she captures that arrogant racism that characterized the nineteenth century, the Victorian belief in the inferiority of women, and the struggles of eking out a living in an area that was then untamed wilderness. Leonie’s deeply existential crisis is often heartbreaking, and the reader is never certain how she will resolve it until the final pages. Finding the courage to be who you are is a daunting task for all of us.

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