One Good Mama Bone
In rural South Carolina in the 1950s, Sarah Creamer, through unforeseen circumstances, ends up raising the son born from an affair between her husband and best friend. Sarah’s own mother was short on love and long on criticism, repeatedly telling her daughter that she did not have “one good mama bone” in her entire body. Though her confidence wavered frequently, Sarah set about to prove her mother wrong.
After she is left on her own when her son, Emerson Bridge, is still small, she channels all her strength to ensure her son’s needs are met, despite their poverty. As Emerson Bridge grows, he decides he wants to raise a steer with the intention of winning a large cash prize to help his mother. Despite knowing virtually nothing about steer nor of the consequences of winning, Sarah manages to secure a young steer for him.
Sarah and Emerson’s lives are intertwined with their wealthy neighbors, the Dobbins family. Sarah makes clothes for the wife while Emerson befriends their young son. The book often shifts perspective to Luther Dobbins as he grapples internally with the face he feels he must show to society and the fractured relationship he has with his son.
The mothering instincts of the cow figure prominently, especially as the mother cow’s thoughts about motherhood parallel Sarah’s own, while Sarah tries to understand what the cow is feeling.
This quirky novel took me completely out of my comfort zone, with its scenes viewed from the cow’s perspective and overly detailed descriptions of rearing steer and the agricultural setting. However, the universal theme of parental love, along with the good writing and interesting plot twists, was enough to override these aspects of the book. Sarah’s journey from poverty-stricken widow raising her husband’s child, to her relative success and confidence made the story more relatable.