Published by Back Bay Books on July 11th 2007
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery, Southern Gothic/Country Noir
Meet Ree Dolly -- not since Mattie Ross stormed her way through Arkansas in True Grit has a young girl so fiercely defended her loved ones. Sixteen-year-old Ree Dolly has grown up in the harsh poverty of the Ozarks and belongs to a large extended family. On a bitterly cold day, Ree, who takes care of her two younger brothers as well as her mother, learns that her father has skipped bail. If he fails to appear for his upcoming court date on charges of cooking crystal meth, his family will lose their house, the only security they have. Winter's Bone is the story of Ree's quest to bring her father back, alive or dead. Her goal had been to leave her messy world behind and join the army, where "everybody had to help keep things clean." But her father's disappearance forces her to first take on the outlaw world of the Dolly family. Ree's plan is elemental and direct: find her father, teach her little brothers how to fend for themselves, and escape a downward spiral of misery. Asking questions of the rough Dolly clan can be a fatal mistake, but Ree perseveres. Her courage and purity of spirit make her a truly compelling figure. She learns that what she had long considered to be the burdens imposed on her by her family are, in fact, the responsibilities that give meaning and direction to her life. Her story is made palpable by Woodrell, who is "that infrequent thing, a born writer" (Philadelphia Inquirer).
‘You got to be ready to die every day – then you got a chance.’
Ree Dolly is a sixteen year old girl living in the Ozarks and has been burdened with a responsibility that has forced maturity upon her at an early age. Her mother is crazy and can no longer care for her two younger brothers and with her dad missing she’s the only one left to do it. When the loss of their house becomes a threat, Ree is forced to reach out to the Dolly clan; blood relatives, but not ones you ever want to be in the debt of.
‘Long, dark, and lovely she had been, in those days before her mind broke and the parts scattered and she let them go.’
Ree was such an incredibly strong heroine, but wouldn’t ever recognize how weighty her actions are simply because she was doing what had to be done. Her story of survival is a heartbreaking one; growing up in the Ozarks where you’re expected to grow up early and carry your own weight and then later get married and have children of your own. In addition, the community she lives in is known to all as being a center for cooking meth. Ree has different dreams and refuses to settle into the grooves already laid out for her. She intends to join the army and make something of herself, but this dream impossible with no one else to care for her brothers, so it becomes vital for her future to find her father.
‘Fading light buttered the ridges until shadows licked them clean and they were lost to nightfall.’
The writing was exquisitely rendered. Bleak. Dismal. Lugubrious. Just a few words best to describe this small yet substantial story. Daniel Woodrell is unrestrained in his depiction of this Ozark community and just how harsh and desolate parts of this world can be. This may be a story of fiction, yet it’s still based on fact as people live like this to this day. It really puts it into perspective the luxuries that many of us take for granted each and every day.
Winter’s Bone is a dreary story that somehow manages to still radiate hope with an incredibly memorable heroine. Recommended for fans of Cormac McCarthy and Donald Ray Pollock.