The Bones of Paradise: A Novel (Hardcover)
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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.
About the Author
Jonis Agee was born in Omaha, Nebraska and grew up in Nebraska and Missouri, places where many of her stories and novels are set. She was educated at the University of Iowa (BA) and the State University of New York at Binghamton (MA, PhD). She is Adele Hall Professor of English at the University of Nebraska Lincoln. She is the author of thirteen books, including the novels Sweet Eyes, Strange Angels, and her most recent, The River Wife, and the short fiction collection, A .38 Special and a Broken Heart, Taking the Wall, and Acts of Love on Indigo Road. Agee's awards include the Gold Award from ForeWord magazine for Acts of Love on Indigo Road, 2004; the NEA grant in fiction; a Loft-McKnight Award of Distinction; the Nebraska Book Award for Weight of Dreams, 2000. Three of her books Strange Angels, Bend This Heart, and Sweet Eyes were named Notable Books of the Year by The New York Times.
“From the opening image of a ‘windmill slowly clanking in a wobbly circle’ to the sublime final sentence, Jonis Agee’s The Bones of Paradise is a beautifully written epic that seamlessly intertwines a family’s history with a region’s, and, ultimately, with a nation’s. This is an ambitious novel.”
“A deceptively leisurely, intensely heart-rending historical about greed and love gone wrong . . . Rose and Dulcinea are women strong enough to cow John Wayne. . . .[in] this sexy, violent, intricate Western.”
“Deadwood has nothing on Nebraska’s Sand Hills. Jonis Agee serves up a gritty, bloody romance set a decade after Wounded Knee. Half murder mystery and half family saga, The Bones of Paradise is a spirited reweaving of history.”
“The finest western novel since Lonesome Dove, Jonis Agee’s The Bones of Paradise is an epic saga with elements of a Greek tragedy.”
“A beautiful writer, [Agee is] back with a multigenerational saga set in the Nebraska Sand Hills—this is Cormac McCarthy country—in the years after the massacre at Wounded Knee. Agee has created indelible characters and a story that will stay with you for a long time.”
“The Bones of Paradise is about the way those we love can bring us a new language and help us make it ours, and in so doing teach us how to ride in concert with the world.”
“Agee’s fast-paced narrative resembles the expansive prose of Larry McMurtry. Her lyrical writing and attention to detail evoke comparisons to Annie Proulx. . . . A captivating tale of life—and death—in the old American West.”
“A haunting tale . . . Agee brilliantly interweaves two stories of loss, guilt, and vengeance, which play out against the vivid backdrop of the [Nebraska] Sand Hills . . . Beautifully rendered and thought-provoking.”
“The Bones of Paradise is part noir, part Western, and all kinds of good . . . a remarkable tale of greed and violence . . . Jonis Agee is a master novelist.”