We knew as soon as she walked into the banquet room of the Lizard's Thicket in Irmo Monday morning that author Bren McClain of Anderson fit right in with our little book club, Between the Covers. We knew that because she immediately threw her arms wide open to embrace us, smiling like she had known each of us for years.
Bren is the first author we'd invited to come talk to us. All five of us love her debut novel, One Good Mama Bone, so much that we just had to meet her. She graciously agreed, and what a treat it was!
Having grown up on a farm in Anderson County, Bren is about as down-to-earth and genuine a person as I've ever met. One of the late Pat Conroy’s Story River Books (University of South Carolina Press) writers, she is a passionate author whose words immediately draw the reader into the world she has created, where the most remarkable characters live.
I was spellbound from the first paragraph of One Good Mama Bone. It is a deeply moving story that reached out and embraced my soul and, I have to say, wrung me out emotionally -- but in the very best way. It's a compassionate story that teaches us that being a mama is far more than giving birth and that there's a good mama bone in many of us even though we might not technically fit that definition. In the novel, the reader meets Mama Red, a cow who plays a role in teaching the main character, Sarah Creamer, just that, even though her own mama once spitefully told Sarah that she "didn't have a good mama bone in her." By the way, Bren got the idea for her book from a real-life cow she named Mama Red who is 25 years old and still lives on her father's farm in Anderson. Bren has invited us to come meet Mama Red, and we can't wait!
Before Bren left us Monday, she shared some exciting news. One Good Mama Bone has been longlisted for The Crook's Corner Book Prize Foundation for the best debut novel set in the American South. The novel has also received a starred review in “Booklist” and named a winter Okra pick by the Southeastern Independent Booksellers Alliance. Bren is a two-time winner of the South Carolina Fiction Project and recipient of the 2005 Fiction Fellowship by the South Carolina Arts Commission.
Before leaving us Monday, Bren read a passage from her next novel, Took, which was named the gold medal winner for the 2016 William Faulkner – William Wisdom Novel-in-Progress. She told us the work of friction evolved from a true story she heard about an eccentric elderly brother and sister who were displaced after they refused to sell their land in the former town of Ellenton to the federal government to construct the Savannah River Plant. The sister unjustly ends up in the Bull Street asylum for the mentally ill.
We could have talked to Bren all day about her work, but she had to catch a flight out of Greenville for a Boston book-signing and lecture.
We always say it after every one of our book club meetings, but this truly was the best meeting yet! We all went home inspired to our bones by a wonderful storyteller.