Pub. Date: February 14, 2017
Foreword by Mary Alice Monroe
Set in early 1950s rural South Carolina, One Good Mama Bone chronicles Sarah Creamer’s quest to find her “mama bone,” after she is left to care for a boy who is not her own but instead is the product of an affair between her husband and her best friend and neighbor, a woman she calls “Sister.” When her husband drinks himself to death, Sarah, a dirt-poor homemaker with no family to rely on and the note on the farm long past due, must find a way for her and young Emerson Bridge to survive. But the more daunting obstacle is Sarah’s fear that her mother’s words, seared in her memory since she first heard them at the age of six, were a prophesy, “You ain’t got you one good mama bone in you, girl.”
When Sarah reads in the local newspaper that a boy won $680 with his Grand Champion steer at the recent 1951 Fat Cattle Show & Sale, she sees this as their financial salvation and finds a way to get Emerson Bridge a steer from a local farmer to compete in the 1952 show. But the young calf is unsettled at Sarah’s farm, crying out in distress and growing louder as the night wears on. Some four miles away, the steer’s mother hears his cries and breaks out of a barbed-wire fence to go in search of him. The next morning Sarah finds the young steer quiet, content, and nursing a large cow. Inspired by the mother cow’s act of love, Sarah names her Mama Red. And so Sarah’s education in motherhood begins with Mama Red as her teacher.
But Luther Dobbins, the man who sold Sarah the steer, has his sights set on winning too, and, like Sarah, he is desperate, but not for money. Dobbins is desperate for glory, wanting to regain his lost grand-champion dynasty, and he will stop at nothing to win. Emboldened by her lessons from Mama Red and her budding mama bone, Sarah is fully committed to victory until she learns the winning steer’s ultimate fate. Will she stop at nothing, even if it means betraying her teacher?
McClain’s writing is distinguished by a sophisticated and detailed portrayal of the day-to-day realities of rural poverty and an authentic sense of time and place that marks the best southern fiction. Her characters transcend their archetypes and her animal-as-teacher theme recalls the likes of Water for Elephants and The Art of Racing in the Rain. One Good Mama Bone explores the strengths and limitations of parental love, the healing power of the human-animal bond, and the ethical dilemmas of raising animals for food.
Praise for One Good Mama Bone
A Pulpwood Queen May 2017 Book Club Pick
A Southern Independent Booksellers’ Association Okra Pick
“First-time novelist McClain draws on her family’s history in the rural South to create a cast of deeply relatable characters, both human and animal, who readers will find themselves rooting for until the very last page.”—Booklist, starred review
"Emotional bonds between humans and animals have long been written about, but never has the bond between a woman and a mother cow been placed front and center. It’s about time. The world is ready for this true portrait of a mother cow’s compassion and the lessons she has to teach us all. This is an important story whose time has come."—Gene Baur, president and co-founder of Farm Sanctuary
“In spite of being an animal lover all my life and feeling the centrality of that love in how I see the larger world, I have never directly addressed that theme in my writing. I no longer have to. Bren McClain’s brilliant and ravishingly moving One Good Mama Bone speaks eloquently for all of us who find our deepest humanity intimately connected with all the sentient creatures around us. Humane and universal, One Good Mama Bone is an instant classic.”—Robert Olen Butler
“McClain’s first novel resists predictability and instead weaves together questions about poverty, class, violence, and religion. . . . A thought-provoking story about families and the animals who sustain them.”—Kirkus Reviews
"Bren McClain writes of elemental things with grace, wisdom, and power. One Good Mama Bone speaks with a quiet authority that comes through on every page."—Ben Fountain
“With One Good Mama Bone, McClain captures the rich heritage of her Southern roots. Drawing deeply from the well of her childhood memories she sculpts this story of love, loss, and unexpected redemption with the chiseled precision of a true artist. Mama Bone is a living Epistle of how deeply a mother loves and the sacrifices she will be forced to make to save her child. The perfect novel companion for a chilly day, to read by a cozy fire.” —River Jordan, Parnassus Books
“I LOVED THIS BOOK. I haven’t been so immersed in a place and time since…I dunno, Serena by Ron Rash. Also, thank you for the ending. Bittersweet to be sure, but sweet nonetheless. I can’t wait to get this in the store and hand-sell it. It was heartbreaking and beautiful and so very real.”—Angel Schroeder, Sunrise Books
“I didn't want to put it down.”—NetGalley reviewer
"... southern fiction at its best."—Bookstalker
"Unexpected characters populate this compelling tale about Mama Red, a mama cow, whose maternal instincts toward her own calf influence a human, Sarah Creamer, to become a better mother to her son. Poignant and enjoyable!"—Steph Crowe, Page & Palette Bookstore
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About the Author
Bren McClain was born and raised in Anderson, South Carolina, on a beef cattle and grain farm. She
McClain will be touring throughout the South as well as in other parts of the country. To learn more, please visit her author website, her FaceBook page, or connect with her on twitter.
It's Giveaway Time!!!
Thanks to Caitlin Hamilton Marketing I have one paperback copy of One Good Mama Bone to giveaway today (US only)! All you have to do is enter your name and email address on the giveaway form HERE. Please be sure to leave both your name and your email on the form so I can contact you if you are my winner (no email address, no entry!). For extra entries you can follow the blog in various ways (links are on the right hand sidebar) and leave the name/email you follow with on the form. That's it!
I'll use a random number generator to pick a winner on February 22nd, 2017 and will announce the winner here as well as email the winner. The winner will then have 48 hours to respond to my email with their full mailing address. If you have already won this giveaway on another site please let me know so I can pick a new winner and give someone else a chance to win a copy of this great book.