Guest Review: Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell

Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell (Audible and eBook)
– reviewed by Teri at Sportochick’s Musings


Bonnie Jo Campbell has created an unforgettable heroine in sixteen-year-old Margo Crane, a beauty whose unflinching gaze and uncanny ability with a rifle have not made her life any easier.

After the violent death of her father, in which she is complicit, Margo 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 traveling 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 the decision of what price she is willing to pay for her choices.


I am not sure where to start with this review. I had a very hard time listening to Margo make bad decision after bad decision in this story line. I understand her upbringing and that she didn’t have choices like most 16-year-olds do. Margo had a mother who didn’t function well in life and a father who had checked out of life because of her mother leaving and the loss of his job. She only had two people who showed her the love she deserved. One whose husband raped her and a man who honestly loved her, treated her like a queen but she lost him because of what she did in front of him with one of her rapists.

The author did a phenomenal job in the area of describing the scenery and setting up the story. What I had a hard time with is the roughness of the characters. Not that they weren’t well written they were. For me it was about something I dislike reading about or witnessing. I don’t want to read about the raping of a minor, being raped, murdering and taking revenge by death of those that do it to you. Though I understand why one would want to do it. For me it wasn’t realistic that she would get away with so much and never get caught.

For many people they will enjoy this book, for me I did not. It did cause me to think about what and how I would of reacted in the same situations. Also it made me wonder why is it that some people can overcome what she went through and others keep repeating the cycle of dysfunction.

For the overall impact I give this 2-1/2 STARS