Reviews > Published on November 1st, 2016

Bookshots: 'A Bloom of Bones' by Allen Morris Jones

Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review


A Bloom of Bones

Who wrote it?

Allen Morris Jones, a prolific writer of short stories and essays and the author of Last Year’s River. He also is the editor of Big Sky Journal.

Plox in a Box:

Poetry within narrative text is just as bad as trying to describe classical music if the writer isn't a music critic.

A dead body renews old conflicts in a small rural town and complicates a budding romance.

Invent a new title for this book:

Cowboys are Complicated

Read this if you like(d):

Stories with the word "ain't."

Meet the book's lead(s):

Eli Singer is a lonely poet cowboy in eastern Montana. Chloe Barnes is his literary agent who finds herself quickly in over her head after she decides to visit his ranch.

Said lead(s) would be portrayed in a movie by:

Eli: Alexander Skarsgård

Chloe: Deborah Ann Woll

Setting: Would you want to live there?

Jordan, Montana, a rural town where nothing happens and everyone knows everyone's business. A great place to be miserable.

A literary agent's New York: awesome!

What was your favorite sentence?

My old stepdad used to say Pete would rather climb a tree and tell a lie than stand on the ground and tell the truth.

The Verdict:

Too many devices piled into one narrative makes it hard to enjoy, or care about, the outcome. Allen chops up his story, so we bounce around in time a lot. The novel opens with the reveal, a decision I question. He then backtracks to try to bring us to a point where we care about these characters, but I don't think he succeeds. Over and over again, I found myself thinking, "More backstory, really?" Everyone's poor and sad. It's not as if there are no sympathetic characters, but the reader has to wait a long time to get to them. Eli's sister is well-drawn and her scenes are especially welcome.

There is poetry. I'm sure some readers would find it amiss if the cowboy poet's poetry wasn't included in the narrative, but I like a separation of church and state. Eli is regarded by his publisher as magnificent, which means the poems have to be the same, an impossibility, given the subjective nature of poetry. To me, poetry within narrative text is just as bad as trying to describe classical music if the writer isn't a music critic. It always sounds corny.

And finally, there's Chloe Barnes. She thinks like a beat cop and lives like Bridget Jones. This tired trope in which a woman who makes a living in the literary industry covers every surface of her home with coffee rings and wine stains has to go. She's like a paper doll compared to Eli, for whom we get multiple branches of his family tree. What does Eli like about her other than the fact that she's hot? What keeps her coming back to Eli, a man who underperforms in bed and spends too much time in his underwear? Oh that's right, he's a cowboy who writes magnificent poetry and lives by himself out under the open sky.

About the author

Stephanie Bonjack is an academic librarian based in Boulder, Colorado. She teaches the relentless pursuit of information, and illuminates the path to discovery. She has presented at national and international library conferences, and is especially interested in how libraries evolve to serve the needs of 21st century patrons. When she’s not sleuthing in the stacks, she enjoys chasing her toddler across wide open spaces.

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