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Winter's Bone - Book of the Month

by Daniel Woodrell

The cover and title of this remarkable novel hardly prepare you for the bleakness on the pages inside. It is the story of Ree: “brunette and sixteen, with milk skin and abrupt green eyes....tall in combat boots, scarce at the waist but plenty through the arms and shoulders, a body made for loping after needs” and her terrible quest through the snow-filled Ozark valleys, legs bare to the biting cold, to find her father, Jessup.

Jessup, on a charge of cooking up crank (crystal-meth), has a habit of absconding, but this time he has used the family home as bail bond and is due to appear in court the following week. Ree has to make sure he is there or she stands to lose the house where she lives with her mentally infirm mother and two younger brothers.

Ree is brave, kind and loyal and her relationship to her family is the warm spot in this icy tale. While dreaming of escaping to join the army, she tenderly cares for her broken mother and, fearful of where her search might lead her, she teaches the boys the practical skills they will need in her absence. Her brothers, eight and ten years old, get careful instruction on how to cook a stew, wash their mother’s hair or shoot, skin and gut a squirrel.

Daniel Woodrell began his writing career with crime fiction and WINTER’S BONE has the pace and energy of a thriller, yet it reads like a prose poem to the Ozarks. The language is lush and vivid but not a single word is wasted in recreating a netherworld of poverty, violence and ignorance where kinship is the only currency of value. The result has a stunning, timeless beauty and Woodrell’s remarkable talent is in making a shimmering silk purse out of an ol’ hog’s ear.

Read our interview with Daniel Woodrell.

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