Summary and book reviews of Bone River by Megan Chance

Bone River

by Megan Chance

Bone River
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  • Paperback:
    Dec 2012, 395 pages

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Book Summary

From award-winning author Megan Chance, Bone River is a haunting, lyrical tale of passion and identity.

In the mid-19th century, Leonie Monroe Russell works alongside her husband, Junius, an oysterman in Shoalwater Bay in the Pacific Northwest. At night she continues her father's lifelong obsession - collecting artifacts and studying the native culture that once thrived in the Washington Territory.

On her thirty-seventh birthday, Leonie discovers a mummy protruding from the riverbank bordering her property - a mummy that by all evidence shouldn't exist. As Leonie searches for answers to the mummy's origins, she begins to feel a mystical connection to it that defies all logic. Leonie's sense that otherworldly forces are at work only grows when news of the incredible discovery brings Junius's long lost son, Daniel, to her doorstep. Upon his unexpected arrival, a native elder insists that Leonie wear a special shell bracelet for protection. But protection from whom? The mummy, or, perhaps, Daniel?

Leonie has always been a good daughter and good wife, but, for the first time, these roles do not seem to be enough. Finding the mummy has changed everything, and now Leonie must decide if she has the courage to put aside the expectations of others to be the woman she was meant to be.

From award-winning author Megan Chance, Bone River is a haunting, lyrical tale of passion and identity.

Excerpt
Bone River

The air was crisp and expectant. The storm had swept away the clouds, and the sun was shining, a brisk, chill breeze blowing off the water, summer's warmth gone for good. Sodden leaves from the alders and maples scattered over the grass, gold and orange and brown. Fallen branches lay cracked and splintered all about. I stepped through the clutter on the narrow porch, beaten old chairs and piles of nets and an old pair of long oystering tongs, and went down the stairs to the yard.

I was at the river before I realized I was heading toward it. I stared down into the churning water, the long grass of the bank trailing in its eddies, the currents at the shore lapping more roughly with the stirring up of the storm and the added rain. Usually I could see to the bottom here at the shore, but not this morning; it was murky and mysterious today.

It was then I heard the noise that had me glancing toward the mouth of the river where it plunged...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. On page 142, when confronted with Baird's request that they collect Indian skeletons, Junius says, "It doesn't matter what I want. Science makes its own demands." Do you think that true? Do you think as Junius does, that in the quest for knowledge, the ends justify the means?

  2. Junius and Leonie collect not only artifacts, but—once Spencer Baird asks them to—bodies for science and for study. What do you feel about bodies being used as scientific specimens? Is this right or wrong? Why?

  3. Daniel suggests that Leonie send the mummy to a curiosity museum, where people can see it, and it will be kept whole. What do you think of this idea? Do you think it might have been the right choice? Why or why not?

  4. All the ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

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Megan Chance's Bone River is a top choice among BookBrowse readers. 18 out of 20 reviewers gave it 4 or 5 stars! Here is what they say about this highly regarded book:

I know I'm in for a good read, when the first time I pick up the book I don't put it down until Chapter 6, the second time took me to 10, then 15, and today I finished it. Do I really need to say I really enjoyed it? (Darlene C) I liked Leonie Russell from beginning to end and cheered her struggle to be herself and think for herself against the wishes of both her father and her husband (Joyce S).   (Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).

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Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Megan Chance's latest (after The Spiritualist) is a complex, intriguing read.

Booklist

Chance's quietly powerful tale will appeal to fans of well-detailed, mysterious, and romantic historical fiction.

Reader Reviews

Maureen C. (Ardsley-on-Hudson, NY)

Another Winner by Megan Chance
I read "An Inconvenient Wife" by the author, and "Bone River" repeats some of the same themes but uses a wildly different setting. This time, Leonie's new-found awareness of her self is reflected by the wildness and unpredictability of the place ...   Read More

Colleen T. (Lakewood, CO)

Bone River by Megan Chance
The Bone River is an extremely well told tale of Leonie Russell, a woman who through a series of astonishing events learns that her reality is not what she thought it was and comes to understand what her true reality is. The author is exceptional at...   Read More

Janet P. (Spokane, WA)

"Something Was Coming"
I am from the Pacific Northwest and spent some years living on the Yakima reservation where I enjoyed museums, discussions and classes focusing on Native American culture. Megan Chance caught the slow moving sense of the tribes of the Northwest in ...   Read More

Carole P. (Framingham, NA)

Bone River
Leoine Russell was raised in the Pacific Northwest during the mid-nineteenth century. Her father had devoted his life to studying the native culture in that area. She grew up surrounded by artifacts, burial grounds and ancient myths. She accepted her...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Ethnology

Ethnology Map of 1904Ethnology is a section of anthropology that analyzes the differences between religion, language, technologies and other social structures of people as categorized by race, nationality or ethnicity. Its goals are broad – to understand the history of human beings and the creation of our various social norms (as defined by race, nationality or ethnicity). It has become exceedingly similar to cultural anthropology and social anthropology, so much so that the three terms are often interchangeable. Another way to understand ethnology is that it is the study of living cultures, both in their own, separate rights, and as compared to others across the world.

Bone RiverIn Bone River, Leonie and her husband, Junius, are ethnologists who study skeletons...

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