Submitted by Joe Palmer
May 3, 2018 5:14 p.m.
Mark your calendars for Friday, May 4 at 3 p.m. when noted author Bren McClain will be here at Story and Song Bookstore Bistro doing readings and signings of her debut novel, One Good Mama Bone.
Set in early 1950s rural South Carolina, the story chronicles Sarah Creamer’s quest to find her “mama bone” when a child who’s not her own, but the product of an affair between her husband and her best friend and neighbor, is thrust into her care. Sarah’s husband drinks himself to death leaving dirt-poor Sarah, who has no family to rely upon and the mortgage on the farm overdue, struggling to find a way to survive and raise the child, whom she names Emerson Bridge. But seared into Sarah’s mind are the words her harsh and unloving mother flung at her when she was just six years old: “You ain’t got you one good mama bone in you, girl.” And it is because of these hard words that Sarah believes that she’ll never be able to be a successful mother.
Sarah reads in the local paper about a cattle show and the $680 cash prize and knows that such a landfall might be the financial salvation of her and Emerson Bridge, now a young boy. She schemes a way to get a calf from a local farmer to compete in the show and brings it home to fatten up and raise. But the calf is grief stricken at being taken away from its mother and wails in distress all night long. The mother cow, in a pasture four miles away, hears the cries of her own child and breaks down a barbed wire fence to look for him. The next morning, Sarah finds the mama cow in her own pasture contentedly nursing her baby. Inspired by the cow’s strong maternal instincts and act of love, Sarah names her Mama Red and it is with Mama Red as her teacher that Sarah gets her education in motherhood and comes to know that, contrary to her cruel mother, that she does have the mama bone in her.
Bren’s writing is sophisticated, lyrical and a piercing examination of the hard reality of rural Southern poverty. And like all the best writers of Southern fiction from William Faulkner to Pat Conroy,+ she not only brings her characters to life as three dimensional people with whom one can easily identify, but she creates, out of the time and place of the story, a character as authentic as the flesh and blood characters in it.
I had the pleasure of meeting Bren at the First Annual Pat Conroy Literary Festival in Beaufort, South Carolina, two years ago and was deeply moved by her passion for the craft and the outpouring of her own soul into this unforgettable tale. Bren is a master storyteller and one of the most engaging speakers I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to. One Good Mama Bone made me laugh and made me cry. It made me shout words of joy and encouragement for Sarah, Emerson Bridge and Mama Red and her calf. It also made me rage against and curse the story’s tragic antagonist Luther Dobbins. The literary and reading community here is blessed to have a true artist like Bren McClain come share her passion with us. Don’t miss this event.