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The White Bone

by

The White Bone Cover

ISBN13: 9780312264123
ISBN10: 0312264127
Condition: Standard
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Reading Group Guide

1. When Date Bed is separated from her family, she discovers that the Domain has been warped by the violence of man. Because these are "abnormal times," she's not quite certain of animals' behaviors anymore. It's clear that the arrival of man not only alters the elephants' world, but the animal kingdom at large. In what ways are each of the character's perspectives altered, both through direct circumstance and spiritually?

2. In what ways do the elephants' religion parallel and differ from the varieties of human worship?

3. Standing amidst the slaughter of his family, Hail Stones says to Mud, "Only in moments of bliss does it become apparent to us why terrible things happen." (p.117) What does the young bull mean by this statement? If Mud cannot yet understand the statement, does she by the end of the novel?

5. On p. 121: "Twice [She-Snorts] located Date Bed's dung and twice she smelled single drops of her blood. At the first discovery of blood, on the node of a log, She-Snorts said, 'She is wounded,' and She-Soothes bellowed, 'Hardly at all!' and their voices, one frightened, one encouraged, described the precise, contracted boundaries of what could be reasonably felt. Not despairing, not yet. Not relieved yet, either." How do these opposite sentiments resonate throughout the novel at large? Where would you say Mud stands between such opinions?

6. At the opening of Chapter Ten (p. 159), the author describes the elephants' sense of time. What role does memory play in such measurements, and what do the elephants' perceptions say about how they view themselves?

7. When left to her own devices, how does Date Bed improvise her own measurements of time? And reflectively, how does her memory change?

8. Toward the end of Mud's pregnancy, she experiences a dream of Date Bed telling her, "You must understand, we aren't what we think we are." Date Bed's trunk then disappears, and out of the cavity a wind blows and a baby cries, "Mama!" What do you think this vision means to Mud? What are her feelings about her own child?

9. When Date Bed finds the Thing, she begins what could be described as a self-exploration. Her journey begins to increasingly turn inward. Through the exercises that she uses to recover lost memory, what does Date Bed find?

10. "By what misguided arrangement were she-ones made swollen with memory rather than sleek with appetite?" (p. 320) Discuss the relevancy of this statement, not only at the close of the book, but throughout the entire novel.

11. Through Mud's eyes, who is Bolt?

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397rs, September 20, 2011 (view all comments by 397rs)
It's been roughly 10 years since I read this book but it is one of those that stays with you forever. I am looking forward to reading it again and again. There have been many recent books written from the perspective of a dog, but this one was written from the perspective of a herd African Elephants. It takes you through every emotion and you truly feel as if you are one of the herd. I highly recommend it to any elephant lover out there!
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780312264123
Author:
Gowdy, Barbara
Publisher:
St. Martins Press-3pl
Location:
New York
Subject:
General
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Africa
Subject:
Fiction
Subject:
Adventure stories
Subject:
Elephants
Subject:
African elephant
Subject:
Nature stories
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Number:
1st Picador USA ed.
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Series Volume:
00-R12
Publication Date:
June 2000
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Yes
Pages:
336
Dimensions:
8.29 x 5.45 x 0.975 in

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Science Fiction and Fantasy » Fantasy » Contemporary
Science and Mathematics » Agriculture » General

The White Bone Used Trade Paper
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$4.95 In Stock
Product details 336 pages Picador USA - English 9780312264123 Reviews:
"Review" by , "From the enormously gifted Gowdy, a mesmerizing journey....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."
"Review" by , "[D]espite her great skill and the colossal effort of imaginative empathy it must have entailed, [Gowdy's] book is hard going....Without being overly anthropomorphic, Gowdy manages to individualize a number of [elephants] as having human-scale emotions, even humor....[T]he reader is disappointed that so talented a writer could have exerted so much effort on so unpromising a subject."
"Review" by , "[A] novel for only the most imaginative readers, or at least those who are willing to accept elephants as sardonic and lascivious."
"Review" by , "Gowdy is a strong and sympathetic writer, capable of conveying real emotion even in the most removed of settings. In this way, we can inhabit the world of her heroine, Mud....We can momentarily understand, in the wake of an elephant massacre, what it might be like to lose 23 members of your family rather than just one, and how it might feel to move from place to place in search of sanctuary."
"Review" by , "[A] big religious put-on, an elephantine Pilgrim's Progress....[T]he novel is plenty funny and plenty odd....Gowdy [has a] great gift for parody and [an] even greater gift for sensual, gross-out description."
"Review" by , "The mysticism and majesty of the African elephant loses no honor in Gowdy's new novel....This masterfully crafted novel is highly recommended for all libraries."
"Review" by , "[Gowdy] did quite a bit of research and does provide views of how elephants live. It is a bit disjointed and often hard to keep track of the various elephants since they all seem to have two names. Detailed family trees are given, along with a glossary and a map of the area."
"Synopsis" by ,
A thrilling journey into the minds of African elephants as they struggle to survive.

If, as many recent nonfiction bestsellers have revealed, animals possess emotions and awareness, they must also have stories. In The White Bone, a novel imagined entirely from the perspective of African elephants, Barbara Gowdy creates a world whole and separate that yet illuminates our own.

For years, young Mud and her family have roamed the high grasses, swamps, and deserts of the sub-Sahara. Now the earth is scorched by drought, and the mutilated bodies of family and friends lie scattered on the ground, shot down by ivory hunters. Nothing-not the once familiar terrain, or the age-old rhythms of life, or even memory itself-seems reliable anymore. Yet a slim prophecy of hope is passed on from water hole to water hole: the sacred white bone of legend will point the elephants toward the Safe Place. And so begins a quest through Africa's vast and perilous plains-until at last the survivors face a decisive trial of loyalty and courage.

In The White Bone, Barbara Gowdy performs a feat of imagination virtually unparalleled in modern fiction. Plunged into an alien landscape, we orient ourselves in elephant time, elephant space, elephant consciousness and begin to feel, as Gowdy puts it, "what it would be like to be that big and gentle, to be that imperiled, and to have that prodigious memory."

Barbara Gowdy is the author of five previous books, including Mister Sandman and We So Seldom Look On Love, and has twice been a finalist for both the Governor General's Award and the Giller Prize. She lives in Toronto, Ontario.

A tour de force of the imagination, The White Bone is a thrilling journey into the minds of African elephants as they struggle to survive in a land wracked by drought and slaughter. The story is told by Mud, who at the novel's opening has survived an attack on her family by ivory poachers. She finds herself at the center of a desperate quest for the White Bone: an object of mythic power which, if found, might lead the herd to safety and survival.

"Inspired . . . A marvel of a book . . . The language, social structure, and intellectual and spiritual world of elephants are as real as the fabric of human life. Absolutely compelling."Alice Munro

"Gowdy's chief accomplishment is that she manages genuinely to entrench us in the elephant psyche . . . Dazzling . . . Gowdy renders this arid African landscape with a subtle gorgeousness reminiscent of Isak Dinesen."The Boston Globe

"Gowdy here performs her greatest creative feat yet . . . Gowdy conjures a vibrantly visceral world . . . The White Bone presents a lyrical educated guess on what elephant consciousness might feel likeincluding, most sadly and movingly, the perpetual threat of extinction."Entertainment Weekly

"Fascinating . . . Through the course of The White Bone we come to care about the elephants as much as we would humans."Judy Doenges, The Seattle Times

"Written like an indigenous legend, The White Bone is about the burden of memory . . . Readers who make it through will never think the same of elephants and their 'appalling resilience.'"Bob Minzesheimer, USA Today

"Gowdy [has a] great gift for sensual description . . . The novel is plenty funny and plenty odd."Sarah Boxer, The New York Times Book Review

"Compelling . . .The White Bone takes place in a self-sufficient and brilliantly authentic world . . . Impressive and delightful."Jelena Petrovic, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune

"A richly detailed novel."The Daily News

"Brave . . . Gowdy has embarked on the creation of an extremely distinct, invented world, with its own social and linguistic structures, its own myths and totems."Claire Messud, Newsday

"Synopsis" by ,
A thrilling journey into the minds of African elephants as they struggle to survive.

If, as many recent nonfiction bestsellers have revealed, animals possess emotions and awareness, they must also have stories. In The White Bone, a novel imagined entirely from the perspective of African elephants, Barbara Gowdy creates a world whole and separate that yet illuminates our own.

For years, young Mud and her family have roamed the high grasses, swamps, and deserts of the sub-Sahara. Now the earth is scorched by drought, and the mutilated bodies of family and friends lie scattered on the ground, shot down by ivory hunters. Nothing-not the once familiar terrain, or the age-old rhythms of life, or even memory itself-seems reliable anymore. Yet a slim prophecy of hope is passed on from water hole to water hole: the sacred white bone of legend will point the elephants toward the Safe Place. And so begins a quest through Africa's vast and perilous plains-until at last the survivors face a decisive trial of loyalty and courage.

In The White Bone, Barbara Gowdy performs a feat of imagination virtually unparalleled in modern fiction. Plunged into an alien landscape, we orient ourselves in elephant time, elephant space, elephant consciousness and begin to feel, as Gowdy puts it, "what it would be like to be that big and gentle, to be that imperiled, and to have that prodigious memory."

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