Tall Poppies Review: “The Feathered Bone” Brings Light to the Darkness

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Sometimes we open a book of fiction hoping to escape to another place and time. While we read, we can imagine living in a world of wizards and gentle giants; diving 20,000 leagues under the sea; or flying in a hot air balloon over rainbows and yellow brick roads.

At other times, fiction pulls us into the dreams and fears of those who live through hardships that most of us can hardly imagine. These are the stories that make news headlines, that cause us to shudder, and that move us to hold onto our loved ones a little bit tighter. They’re the stories that open our eyes to dire struggles in the world – and they’re the stories that inspired Julie Cantrell to write The Feathered Bone.

The novel begins with a sixth-grade field trip to pre-Katrina New Orleans during a Halloween celebration. A suburban mother named Amanda Salassi volunteers to be a chaperone on the trip and is in charge of her daughter, Ellie, and Ellie’s best friend, Sarah Broussard. At the end of the trip, just as children are heading back to their school bus, Amanda discovers that Sarah has vanished without a trace. While the abduction puts Sarah’s life in peril, the crime also throws several characters into a nightmare of fear, grief, guilt, and survival.

The topics explored in this novel are dark, yet Sarah brings light to the story through the journal entries that she writes during her captivity. Even though she is living in a world of human trafficking, sexual slavery, and pedophilia, she never loses her faith in God, her family, or the belief that she will return home one day.

Cantrell also explores the emotional toll Sarah’s abduction has on the people who were left in its wake. Readers go behind closed doors to see different ways in which people can become held captive by abuse, isolation, and insurmountable guilt.

In the midst of great turmoil, it is Sarah herself who demonstrates the most perseverance. “I’m going to remind myself that I can bend and bend,” she wrote in her journal. “No matter how bad things might get, I will never break. Because I’m stronger than they think I am.”

Unfortunately, not all of Cantrell’s characters share Sarah’s inner strength – and without the ability to bend like a feathered bone, they risk breaking under pressure.

Cantrell’s writing in The Feathered Bone is exceptional and her love of Louisiana is a colorful backdrop for this dramatic story. She shows us that even when something as destructive as a hurricane rages into our lives, literally or figuratively, there is recovery after every storm and the sun will shine again.

The Feathered Bone is now available for purchase. 

ABOUT JULIE CANTRELL

Julie Cantrell is an award-winning New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling novelist whose work focuses on relationships and resilience. As a writer, teacher, and TEDx presenter, she aims to build empathy and connection while inspiring others to live their best life.
 
Her debut novel, Into the Free, earned a starred review by Publishers Weekly, the Mississippi Library Association’s Fiction Award, and the Christy Award Book of the Year. It also was named a Best Read of 2012 by USA TODAY, while becoming an international bestseller.
 
The sequel, When Mountains Move, was named a 2013 Best Read by USA TODAY, a finalist for numerous awards, and winner of the Carol Award for Historical Fiction.
 
Her third novel, The Feathered Bone was selected as an Okra Pick by SIBA and Book of the Year by Pulpwood Queens. A finalist for three literary awards, including the Southern Book Prize, it won the Carol Award for Contemporary Fiction and earned a starred review by Library Journal, who also named it a Best Book of 2016.
 
Perennials, her fourth novel, has been recognized as a top read of 2017 by Redbook Magazine, Southern Living Magazine, REAL SIMPLE, and USA TODAY HEA. In addition to receiving praise from Publishers Weekly and CBA Market Magazine, Perennials also has been named a Top Pick by RT Reviews and an Okra Pick by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance.
A certified speech-language pathologist, naturalist, and previous organic farmer, Cantrell has served as editor-in-chief of the Southern Literary Review. She is a recipient of the Mississippi Arts Commission Literary Fellowship as well as the Mary Elizabeth Nelson Fellowship at Rivendell Writers’ Colony, and she was named a 2017 finalist for the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Fiction Award. A mother of two, Julie writes from her home in Oxford, Mississippi.

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After graduating from St. Olaf College, Kerstin March built a career around writing. During her start as a small town newspaper reporter, and as a public relations professional later on, she always enjoyed bringing out the personal side of news stories. Kerstin lives in Minnesota with her husband and their three children. When her family isn’t scrambling with work, school, and errands, they can often be found up north, braving ice-cold swims, fish boils, and bear scares on Lake Superior’s shore. Family Trees is her debut novel. The sequel, Branching Out, was released in December 2015.

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