Monday, April 30, 2007

Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell

Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell is a great book to read when it's 98 degrees outside because it inexplicably made me feel cold through and through.

This short novel is set in the Ozarks in an unspecified time period. Although there are hints at modernity - headphones, New Age sound tapes, and meth labs are mentioned throughout - the pervasive feel is that it takes place in the early 20th century.

Woodrell tells the story of a week in the life of Ree Dolly, a 16-year-old who is hardened far beyond her years. Her father, who cooks meth, has disappeared and her mother has some sort of mental illness. Ree takes care of her two younger brothers and worries about their future. At the beginning of the novel, we learn that Ree's father has a court date for which he put up his house and land as bail. If he doesn't make his court date, their house and land will be repossessed. During this week, Ree must find her father in order to save their home.

This book depicts lives that are cold and dark. I got the feeling that the sun never shines where Ree lives. Ree's family is hardened and callous, but a few of them - Ree, her best friend, and Ree's Uncle Teardrop - have glimmers of morality and steadfastness that make them highly sympathetic. Ree herself is smart, responsible and realistic, and one cannot help but hope that she can figure out a way to save her family and herself.

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