THE WHITE BONE by Barbara Gowdy


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From the enormously gifted Gowdy (Mister Sandman, 1997, etc.), a mesmerizing journey into the heart of Africa and a maternal society of elephants slipping rapidly into extinction. Africa’s elephants are being decimated by an unending drought and slaughtered in unprecedented numbers for their tusks and feet. Young Mud, adopted into the She-S matriarchal group after they found her nearly crushed beneath her dead mother (and named for the life-saving circumstances of her birth), is now just old enough to carry her first calf. But this ordinarily joyous occasion in an elephant’s life is destined to be otherwise when the She-S band, taking refuge in a swamp, is surprised by poachers and within a few moments nearly obliterated. The few survivors scatter in fear, then attempt to find each other while also seeking the White Bone, a mystical object that, according to elephant legend, will lead the finder to the Safe Place where drought and hunters cannot enter. Separated from her lifelong friend, Date Bed, who’s able to communicate telepathically with all creatures except humans, Mud searches for her with a few others, including Date Bed’s mother. Meanwhile, Tall Time, father of Mud’s calf, is on a lonely quest of his own for the White Bone—a quest that takes him to the land of the Lost Ones, distantly related elephants who have evolved into smaller, mountain-dwelling visionaries. Though the White Bone is eventually found, death continues to claim those seeking it, and in the end nearly everything depends on the ability of Mud and her newborn calf merely to survive. Warmly conveying a remarkably full vision of elephant life, as well as the almost incomprehensible tragedy of species annihilation, Gowdy has created an astonishingly moving saga. (First printing of 50,000; Book-of-the-Month-Club selection; author tour)

Pub Date: May 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-8050-6036-7
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1999


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