Canada Reads·Canadian

The White Bone

Barbara Gowdy's novel is the story of Mud, a young elephant cow orphaned at birth and blessed with visionary powers.

Barbara Gowdy

If elephants could tell just one story, it would be the story of Mud, a young elephant cow orphaned at birth and blessed with visionary powers. Mud's life on the African plain is changed forever when she and her adopted family are forced by prolonged drought to linger at one of the few remaining watering holes. The herd is ambushed there by ivory poachers, who kill almost all the cows and their young. The traumatized survivors, including a pregnant Mud, set out in search of the talismanic white bone that can lead them to a paradise free from human savagery. (From HarperCollins Canada)

From the book

All day there are glaring omens that go undetected.

Never will this failure of perception be admitted to. Into every precisely remembered hour, foreknowledge will be inserted, voices haunted with conviction saying, "I smelled it coming." Because how is it possible they didn't?

Granted, they are absorbed in deciding Mud's name, but not all of them are, only the five biggest cows. And not completely absorbed either. At intervals they enter the swamp to browse and drink, and the matriarch even dozes and has to be nudged awake late in the afternoon when they summon Mud and announce in a chorus: "From this day forward and forevermore Mud shall be She-Spurns!"


From The White Bone by Barbara Gowdy ©1998. Published by HarperCollins Canada.