The award-winning author of The River Wife returns with a multigenerational family saga set in the unforgiving Nebraska Sand Hills in the years following the massacre at Wounded Knee--an ambitious tale of history, vengeance, race, guilt, betrayal, family, and belonging, filled with a vivid cast of characters shaped by violence, love, and a desperate loyalty to the land.Read more...
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The award-winning author of The River Wife returns with a multigenerational family saga set in the unforgiving Nebraska Sand Hills in the years following the massacre at Wounded Knee--an ambitious tale of history, vengeance, race, guilt, betrayal, family, and belonging, filled with a vivid cast of characters shaped by violence, love, and a desperate loyalty to the land.
Ten years after the Seventh Cavalry massacred more than two hundred Lakota men, women, and children at Wounded Knee, J.B. Bennett, a white rancher, and Star, a young Native American woman, are murdered in a remote meadow on J.B.'s land. The deaths bring together the scattered members of the Bennett family: J.B.'s cunning and hard father, Drum; his estranged wife, Dulcinea; and his teenage sons, Cullen and Hayward. As the mystery of these twin deaths unfolds, the history of the dysfunctional Bennetts and their damning secrets is revealed, exposing the conflicted heart of a nation caught between past and future.
At the center of The Bones of Paradise are two remarkable women. Dulcinea, returned after bitter years of self-exile, yearns for redemption and the courage to mend her broken family and reclaim the land that is rightfully hers. Rose, scarred by the terrible slaughters that have decimated and dislocated her people, struggles to accept the death of her sister, Star, and refuses to rest until she is avenged.
A kaleidoscopic portrait of misfits, schemers, chancers, and dreamers, Jonis Agee's bold novel is a panorama of America at the dawn of a new century. A beautiful evocation of this magnificent, blood-soaked land--its sweeping prairies, seas of golden grass, and sandy hills, all at the mercy of two unpredictable and terrifying forces, weather and lawlessness--and the durable men and women who dared to tame it. Intimate and epic, The Bones of Paradise is a remarkable achievement: a mystery, a tragedy, a romance, and an unflagging exploration of the beauty and brutality, tenderness and cruelty that defined the settling of the American West.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-06-06
- Reviewer: Staff
Agee’s (The River Wife) emotionally rich tale is as wild and sprawling as the Midwestern plains. This is the Nebraska Sandhills a decade after the army’s massacre of more than 200 Lakota at Wounded Knee in 1890. When middle-aged white rancher J.B. Bennett and the younger Native American Star are murdered, apparently together, their families collide. J.B.’s wife, Dulcinea, estranged from her sons through the machinations of his J.B.’s father, Drum, seeks reconciliation with her boys even as she wrestles to maintain rights to the ranch that Drum wants back, no matter the means. Meanwhile, Rose’s efforts to solve the murder of her sister, Star, threaten her long friendship with Dulcinea. The evolving friendship of Dulcinea and Rose is a poignant counterpoint to the cruelties born of ignorance and greed in the face of cultural difference. The story’s several parts—gritty Western, family saga, mystery—work together for a memorable tale of heartbreak and redemption. Agent: Emma Sweeney, Emma Sweeny Agency. (Aug.)
Murder on the Great Plains
Like a fast-moving thunderstorm across the Great Plains, The Bones of Paradise wastes little time establishing plot: Two people are found dead in the opening chapter. A white cattle rancher happens upon the fresh grave of a young Native-American woman. J.B. Bennett quickly determines that the woman, Star, has been murdered. But Bennett looks up to see someone he knows pointing a rifle, and feels a bullet pierce his chest.
A gifted writer, Agee returns here to historical fiction, the genre that served her so well in her award-winning The River Wife. The Bones of Paradise is set in late 19th-century Nebraska in the aftermath of the Wounded Knee Massacre, where some 200 Lakota men, women and children were shot and killed by U.S. cavalry. The tension between the white settlers and the remaining tribal members, who often face discrimination, places a strain on the friendship between Dulcinea Bennett, J.B.’s widow, and Rose, Star’s sister. But the two women are united in their quest to find the killer . . . or killers.
Agee’s fast-paced narrative resembles the expansive prose of Larry McMurtry. Her lyrical writing and attention to detail evoke comparisons to Annie Proulx. There are biblical and Shakespearean echoes here as well: Dulcinea’s two sons recall Cain and Abel, and could somehow be involved in the murder; Dulcinea’s father-in-law, Drum, conjures images of a crazed King Lear. The Bones of Paradise is also a romance, with sparks between Dulcinea and a new hired hand—and of course, there’s that murder mystery. Agee deftly weaves all these plot lines together into a captivating tale of life—and death—in the old American West.