Throwback Thursday is a fun meme created by Renee at It’s Book Talk as a way to share reviews of books that are old favorites, as well as books that have finally been read after languishing for a while. Visit Renee’s blog here: It’s Book Talk

One Good Mama Bone is a favorite read of mine from 2017. I wish my review were a little longer, and I have thought about re-writing it to do this book better justice. But really, you could just skip my review and imagine a giant billboard saying, “PLEASE READ THIS BOOK!”

If nothing else, please read the last paragraph in the synopsis below. It perfectly describes the strengths of One Good Mama Bone.

I have since recommended One Good Mama Bone many times over, and everyone has loved it as much as I did. Fans of Pat Conroy will want to know that One Good Mama Bone was handpicked by him for his publishing imprint, Story River Books. It has the same delectable storytelling qualities and deep emotion for which Conroy was known.

Side note for any flower fans: that’s my first calla lily of the season from my garden!

My Thoughts:

One Good Mama Bone by Bren McClain

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I feel like my heart was opened up to all kinds of emotions and then swallowed whole. I finished reading it just a few short minutes ago and did not know if this non-crier would be able to see well enough with my tear-filled eyes to write this review.

One Good Mama Bone reads like a classic. The character development is flawless; each was fleshed out in three dimension, including the tenderly-drawn animals.

Since the setting is rural South Carolina on a cattle farm, having spent time on a family farm growing up, I had a feeling there would be plenty of heartbreak in these pages, and there certainly was. The book was so exquisitely executed that the heartbreaks, including the bouts of ugly crying, were all worth it for me.

I do not want to give any of the story away; it’s just too good, and it’s summarized well in the synopsis below. I also have to note- I find human and animal behavior fascinating, and a side benefit of reading this book was all I inadvertently learned about cows, especially mama cows.

If you like well-written, emotional reads filled with characters you will want to hug and characters you will loathe, this book gets my highest recommendation. I will never forget it or its characters.

I also want to add, because of the nature of cattle farming, animal slaughter for food is discussed. As a vegetarian, I was sensitive to that, and for me, even if I was deeply, deeply unsettled reading about it, it did not detract from my love for this story and its characters.

I read that it took Bren McClain over 10 years to write this book. I sincerely hope she writes another book, and even if takes 10 years, I will be waiting for it. I would like to thank the author and the publisher for the complimentary copy. This was my unsolicited review.

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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 Sara’s fear that her mother’s words, seared in her memory since she first heard them at the age of six, were a prophecy, 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 committed to victory even after 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.

Happy Reading! ~ Jennifer THR