Friday, August 31, 2012

Book review: Winter's Bone

Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell

Description from Goodreads (below) can be found here along with other reviews. Linking up with Blonde... Undercover Blonde for Book Club Friday.

Ree Dolly's 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. With two young brothers depending on her, 16-year-old Ree knows she has to bring her father back, dead or alive. Living in the harsh poverty of the Ozarks, Ree learns quickly that asking questions of the rough Dolly clan can be a fatal mistake. But, as an unsettling revelation lurks, Ree discovers unforeseen depths in herself and in a family network that protects its own at any cost.

I grew up on the outskirts of the Ozarks.

I guess, technically, we might be in the Ozarks, but I'm not sure, and I wasn't as country as Ree in Winter's Bone, so I'm gonna go with the outskirts.

I think the fact of growing up so close to the setting of this novel made it way intriguing for me.

Because all through reading the book, it's really easy to forget that this is set in present time. When Ree is hunting squirrels for food and teaching her brothers how to prepare them, it doesn't seem like something that would be happening right now. But then Ree will pull out her walkman and you're reminded that it takes place in the now (although walkmans are old, Ree isn't one who could really afford an iPod, yaknow?).

Winter's Bone gives a picture of life the way tons of people currently live it that many of us have never seen.

Ree is tough. Her mom is not very present mentally and her dad is no where to be found. But even when he is around, it's clear that this girl has had to learn how to survive, how to take care of herself, and how to support two kiddos and her mother while she's at it. Oh, and she's only 16. Pretty sure when I was 16 my dad was still giving me money anytime I wanted to go to the movies.

The story line reeks of desperation, but Ree never really shows it or feels sorry for herself. She just keeps going and does what she has to do. You really get to rooting for her to succeed, even as everything falls apart and it looks like she has very little hope.

The characters are fascinating and real, and very dynamic. A meth dealer could be a very one-dimensional, stereotypical character, but not in this book. You become fond of cookers of Crystal Meth and see them as real people, which is also something many of us don't do often (unless you're my mom, who becomes friends with them as she's busting their labs...). Usually, for me anyway, meth addicts and cookers are just names in the paper or mugshots on the news. The kids are even multi-demensional. Every character in Winter's Bone has at least one surprise up their sleeves that keeps you interested the whole way through.

Winter's Bone didn't become my favorite book in the world. But it did wake me up to a bit of life I'd never have seen otherwise, and shake me out of my middle-class white girl cocoon. I think it's worth the read just for that.

Have any of you read Winter's Bone or seen the movie? I'd love to hear what you thought! Also, here's a fascinating article about how they worked toward accuracy in the movie!


Joslin said...

I haven't heard of this book or the movie. I'll have to look into reading this!

Katie said...

I saw the movie, and it was pretty depressing. But you're right-- people actually do live like that. I think that's why I found it so sad.

Cassy said...

I thought the movie was fantastic - very well done. But, yes, pretty depressing.

Anonymous said...



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