I decided to pick up WINTER'S BONE by Daniel Woodrell from the library shortly after I had watched to Academy Awards earlier this year My reason was that most times, for me, books are always better than the movies and since the movie was nominated I figured it was definitely worth checking out. That was in February. The waiting list for this book was so long that I didn't get my chance to read it until May!
About the Book (Without giving anything away)
When you've grown up poor in the Ozark Mountains you learn to live by a certain code and that code is loyalty. Ree Dolly knows how important those loyalties are and what can happen to you if you betray those loyalties. Eighteen year old Ree lives with her mentally unstable mother and her two young brothers along with her father, a known meth cooker, whom she hasn't seen in weeks and is beginning to think the worst. When a local bail bondsman informs her that if her father doesn't show up for a fast approaching court date, the family will be forced to give up their family home which goes back many generations.
Its the dead of winter and Ree is quickly running out of supplies for her family but the most important thing on her mind is finding her father before they also lose their home. Ree sets out to get some answers and even though she's related to many of the families who call the mountains home, she is met with hard looks, threats and not many answers. But Ree does not give up even when her own physical safety is threatened. It is made perfectly clear to Ree that these people - family or not - don't like her snooping around or the attention it creates. As the days go on, she fears the worst about her dad but now she has to prove to the courts that there is a reason he didn't show up for his trial.
It took me several pages to get used to the vernacular used in this book. Once I got accustomed to it though, it went smoothly. The setting and conditions of the story were very accurately portrayed and right away I had a true sense of the atmosphere the author was setting up.
The story itself is not a complicated one, its simply a teenage girl trying to locate her father against some very difficult circumstances. The supporting characters that Ree encounters while searching for Jessup play a big part in the story and is what leads Ree down the path of realization. The characters seem very realistic, though I couldn't actually relate to any of them given their lifestyle. Woodrell paints a very grim, hard picture of what life is like living in those mountains and doing the illegal things these people do on a daily basis as a way of earning their money. There is a lot of drug use in the book and other illegal activities that instills in the reader the sense that the law really doesn't reach into the mountains to where these people live.
Ree was a likable character and I couldn't help but admire her for her forcefulness in her attempts to locate Jessup. It was also clear that she didn't want to follow in the footsteps of her father and in fact, had a plan to improve her life by getting off of that mountain and hopefully join the military. That was her only hope of having a better life.
There were some parts of the story that I skimmed over, namely when Ree was teaching her younger brothers to clean and prepare wild animals that they would kill as they were running out of food. I am sensitive to those things, so I skipped over those few parts.
I actually did like the book but honestly, not as much as I had hoped. It left me feeling a bit anxious and I also made the decision not to watch the movie version on DVD. I did feel that the ending did bring a satisfying resolve to the story however. Would I recommend this book? I would caution anyone thinking of reading it that it is not for the faint at heart and let them decide for themselves. It's a dark story and if that doesn't bother you, then you probably wouldn't mind reading it. In my opinion, it is one of those books that is just not for everyone. I have not read any of Daniel Woodrell's other work. WINTER'S BONE is his eighth book.
Author: Daniel Woodrell
Publisher: Back Bay Books
Published: July 2007
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Source: Marion County Public Library