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Hardcover The White Bone Book

ISBN: 0805060367

ISBN13: 9780805060362

The White Bone

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Format: Hardcover

Condition: Very Good

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Book Overview

A thrilling journey into the minds of African elephants as they struggle to survive. If, as many recent nonfiction bestsellers have revealed, animals possess emotions and awareness, they must also... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings


A profound and inventive book. Gowdy's choice of speaking to the human condition through the medium of an extended family of elephants is unusual, to say the least, but ultimately rewarding. A challanging but deeply satisfying read. In my opinion, this is Gowdy at her best.


The key, I think, to understanding and enjoying this wonderful novel lies in the quote from author Joy Williams that appears on the back cover: `This sorrowful novel does holy work because it engages us in that holiest of acts - empathy'. Rarely have I come across a creation as beautiful as this book - or as sad. The reviewers below who take issue with the `lack of plot' and the mourning that seems to occur on every other page should stop for just a moment and think about the world in which elephants live - a world that has seemingly focused itself on their destruction as a species, all for the prize of their ivory tusks. There are laws in place today to make an attempt to stem this slaughter - but poaching remains a constant threat, and more aggressive steps are obviously needed to save these gentle creatures.The world that Barbara Gowdy has imagined in this book is not one that leaps merely from her imagination - a look at her acknowledgements at the end of the novel will reveal this. She has definitely done her homework, and her work here has its roots in science and reality - which makes the scope of her creation all the more amazing. She has brought to life not just the surface of the elephants' lives - she has envisioned and made very real the structures of their society, their thought processes, the various methods with which they communicate (both with each other and with members of other species), and even a vast system of mythology, embodying legends, `links' (omens, signs and folk wisdom), a vast knowledge of their natural world, and even the concept of a creative deity. This might sound like quite a feat for the author to pull off - and it is, but she does so with breathtaking success.The society of elephants is a matriarchal one - the females are the leaders and seem to be more plentiful. The central character of the story - a young cow named Mud - is seen to go through the changes that life brings about to all species. She is born, orphaned, adopted by another family group, and grows into adolescence and adulthood over the course of the story. Her understanding and concept of the world around her grows and changes as her life progresses and takes shape - altered both physically and emotionally by her experiences. She is a visionary - an elephant within the family group who is sometimes gifted with visions of occurrences in other places and times. These events sometimes lie in the near or far future, sometimes in the present, and sometimes in the past. There is also (usually) present within each family group a member gifted with `mind talking' - able to communicate without sound with the other group members and with other species. When a mind talker or a visionary - or a fine-scenter or a tracker, or other specifically talented member - dies or is killed, the gift is passed on to another individual.The story is not, as at least one other reviewer has indicated, plotless. It involves the elephants' constant struggle for


In these days, where ecology and environmental conservation are high issues, Barbra Gowdy writes a novel which not only embeds itself in these very issues, but reveals an emotional and innovative story as well. "The White Bone" takes on the idea of finding the promised land, but with a twist: the characters are elephants. The book follows closely the journey of one particular elephant, She-Spurns, as she and her pack search out the elusive white bone which will lead them to a safehaven with food in the times of rainless days. It must have been through months of careful research that Gowdy was able to so accuratley present to us the actions, the movments and the rituals that go on in the clans. These carefully crafted characters appeal to human emotion; it's like witnessing war through the deep set eyes of the elephant. "The White Bone" brings into our living rooms the abstract visions we have of what goes on across the plains of Africa, between the dry seasons, the poaches of the hungry ivory trade and every natural force imaginable, we cannot help it, but to want to extend a hand to these masterful, but still so mortal creatures.

A wonderfully imaginative novel

Initially, I stayed away from reading this novel as any reviews I came upon described it in a most uninteresting fashion.When I finally picked up the novel, I heaved a sigh. Another book introduced with family trees (this one for elephant clans), as well as a map and a glossary of terms. But upon reading, I found that the charts and glossary were merely assistive tools, and certainly not mandatory for enjoying this thoroughly imaginative book. I was constantly struck by Gowdy's ability to paint the world of the elephant, through their eyes. Their search for a Safe Place, where humans do not slaughter them or their famiily for their heads, tusks, or feet. Gowdy creates a wonderfully imaginative read in looking at the elephant's existence through their eyes, so rich in memory, mysticism and spirituality, but also full of sorrow. I found myself to be incredibly moved by the mourning rituals that Gowdy described. Don't be put off by the subject matter. If nothing else, this is worth reading if only to see a writer at the peak of their craft. I am awed by Gowdy's ability to use extensive research to create a novel that is creative, interesting, touching and meaningful. Does the ending disappoint? No, not when you consider that happy endings should not be expected in a world where one's reality is that of being pursued and hunted down. This novel is a creative, imaginative journey, and I loved every second of it. I highly recommend taking this adventure.

From the eyes of elephants, a dream for humans.

In the bathtub, as I washed soap from my face, I suddenly imagined throwing back my trunk and spraying water on my grey wrinkled back. I had spent the morning finishing Barbara Gowdy's book The White Bone ; it wasn't hard imagining myself an elephant. And I think Gowdy would be pleased. In the tradition of Watership Down , she takes you to the alien plains of Africa through the eyes of elephants. To enter the elephants' world was a privilege. I've been fascinated by elephants for a while; they're so big and lumbering, homely yet majestic. Their sad eyes draw me. In The White Bone , they and their world came alive and I fell in love with them. The life of one particular family, the She-S's, is revealed through the eyes of Mud and two of her friends. Mud, a twelve-year-old female who has just mated for the first time, is being honored for this event by receiving her adult name from her adoptive family. But she isn't quite ready to leave her adolescence and refuses to acknowledge her new name. Mud and her best friend Date Bed devise plots to outwit the intolerable old cows by starting their own herd. Date Bed is the true offspring of Mud's adoptive mother; they have been inseparable since childhood. Date Bed is a gatherer of knowledge, curious and always observing. Tall Time is an older male, who periodically visits the family because he has had a crush on Mud since she was two. He can't help his unnatural devotion and desire for Mud. He wants to mate for life with her because he feels she carries the image of the Divine She. He is called the Link Bull because he knows all the omens and hidden meaningsto coincidences. These three are cast together with their families in the struggle between nature and culture. Faced with the worst drought in 65 years, the elephants are unprepared for the ivory hunters that ambush them at one of the last remaining water holes. Against this backdrop of betrayal and despair, the surviving elephants begin their exile. All three are separated by the chaos following the slaughter, but are connected like strands in a web through love, hope and desperation. Each hears rumours of a Safe Place, where humans have been redeemed to their former elephant-loving nature, and elephants are no longer hunted. A mysterious White Bone is said to appear in times of need to point the way. Against all odds, they begin to search for this White Bone, and the hope of survival it holds out. A slow change comes over them. Tall Time begins a struggle of faith and doubt in the synchronistic events he had previously taken for granted. Date Bed's scientific nature helps her discover her spirit twin and her courage to act for the benefit for the whole herd. And Mud discovers compassion for the older elephants, as her visions reveal their vulnerability. The Safe Place promises not just physical survival, but calls to the essence of their identity. Struggles with collectivity, with outworn tra

The White Bone Mentions in Our Blog

The White Bone in Literary Critters: 8 Novels with Animals as Main Characters
Literary Critters: 8 Novels with Animals as Main Characters
Published by Ashly Moore Sheldon • September 04, 2020

What's your spirit animal? For National Wildlife Day, we thought we'd offer up some novels that feature wild animals as main characters. Some of these creatures are realistic and lifelike, while others offer a magical, mystical presence.

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