"Barbara Gowdy’s The White Bone (1998), a kind of tragic epic of African elephants narrated from the perspective of the elephants, undertakes to cross the boundary between species in an extraordinarily visceral, sensuous, and poetic rendering of language unparalleled in contemporary literature. You need not believe that elephants can think in language—in this case, a highly lyric English—to be enthralled by the author’s imaginative immersion in her subject, a brilliantly inspired melding of research into the lives of African elephants and the creation of a distinctly original, indeed sui generis alternative world. Inevitably, in a time in which African elephants are being ravaged by poachers and their species endangered by incursions into their natural habitat, The White Bone is not a casual reading experience. It will linger long in the memory, like an intensely unnerving yet wonderfully strange dream."
—Joyce Carol Oates, The New York Review of Books
"Inspired . . . A marvel of a book . . . The language, social structure, intellectual and spiritual world of elephants are as real as the fabric of human life. Absolutely compelling."
"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 like - including, most sadly and movingly, the perpetual threat of extinction."
"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."
—New York 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