Friday, February 14, 2014

Winter's Bone

Daniel Woodrell
Little, Brown and Company
Reviewed by: Nancy
4 out of 5 stars


The sheriff's deputy at the front door brings hard news to Ree Dolly. Her father has skipped bail on charges that he ran a crystal meth lab, and the Dollys will lose their house if he doesn't show up for his next court date. Ree's father has disappeared before. The Dolly clan has worked the shadowy side of the law for generations, and arrests (and attempts to avoid them) are part of life in Rathlin Valley. With two young brothers depending on her and a mother who's entered a kind of second childhood, sixteen-year-old Ree knows she has to bring her father back, dead or alive. She has grown up in the harsh poverty of the Ozarks and learns quickly that asking questions of the rough Dolly clan can be a fatal mistake. But along the way to a shocking revelation, Ree discovers unforeseen depths in herself and in a family network that protects its own at any cost.

My Review
This short novel has many things I enjoy in dark fiction – quirky, dysfunctional characters, a determined heroine struggling to survive and keep her family together, a bleak setting, a sense of hopelessness, people who pay the price for their bad choices.  This is a quiet story that crept up on me slowly and haunted me for days afterward.    
Actually, it terrified me and made me glad I grew up in New York City.  Sure, there were shootings, muggings, carjackings, and stabbings.  You just had to watch your back constantly and try to stay out of the dangerous neighborhoods.  Once I was home and the six deadbolts locked, I felt safe. 
16-year-old Ree Dolly has no sense of safety.  Her mother is mentally ill and unable to care for her children, her dad has disappeared, her relatives are downright scary, and meth is a major source of the family’s income. 
I have never been to the Ozarks and have no idea how accurately this story portrays the region and its inhabitants, though I’m sure these characters really exist somewhere. 
What keeps me from giving a five-star rating, is the prose.  At times, it felt overwritten, taking me out of the story.  I also felt it was too brief, making the characters and relationships too remote.  In the end, I wanted more than an empty, hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach. 
Also posted at Goodreads.

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