Winter’s Bone ~ by Daniel Woodrell

I don’t know why but I didn’t really get involved in this book until close to the end – when the bail bondsman shows up at Ree’s house.  Then it kind of took off for me, became real somehow.  The story, which is fairly good in concept, is that of a teenage girl who is left to fend for herself and her two young brothers along with her mentally disabled mother.  This happens when  her father, who ran a meth lab,  goes missing while being out on bail.  Now the family will lose their home if he doesn’t show up for court.  It all takes place in the back country of the Ozarks which was probably settled by the Scots-Irish of Kentucky bringing their ways and family feuds with them. (I just sense this from the language and the family ways.) 

Winter’s Bone 
by Daniel Woodrell 
Read by Emma Galvin 4h 53m
Rating – 6/B – literary crime 

There are lots and lots of rave reviews on Amazon – mine’s not that.  Maybe it was bad timing for me.  It’s called Faulknerian and Homeric –  omg.  I think I missed something or it was bad timing for me – whatever.  I’m not interested in trying again.  (It might have been partially due to the narrator.)

Anyway, Ree has to find Dad to get him to court so she can keep the house which was used as bail. This is the story of her search.  But in the Ozark hills folks don’t talk much,  and they certainly don’t snitch and they certainly especially don’t snitch on family!  So she gets little or no help from her extended family.  It appears his whereabouts are unknown by anyone – or at least they all say they’re don’t know until … There’s a lot more involved here but that’s the gist. 

The book has been compared to Faulkner and I do see the huge effort gone into a kind of Southern, Biblical, Faulknerian gothic with highly descriptive passages.  Faulknerian Southern Gothic might be appropriate for the geographical area and its people,  but the narrative doesn’t quite get there because the author tries so hard.  And that interferes with the flow of the plot which should be front and center in a genre crime novel. Literary crime is very hard to do well.  

Also, the subject matter is often too gritty for Faulkner.  Faulkner’s characters don’t deal with meth labs and he doesn’t often deal in the serious mistreatment of women.  Besides, Faulkner’s women don’t say things like, “It seemed like one day she sprung a leak and all her gumption drained out.”  (Is that trying to be Kentucky funny?) 

Between the ignorant, arrogant, snotty, mean, language of most of the characters and the nasally sound of the narrator for those same characters I was turned off.  I had no sympathy in any way at all for most of them – I could barely tolerate them and it certainly didn’t fit at all with the lyrically descriptive passages which were juxtaposed in the same pages. 

I understand the movie was excellent – I suppose that’s possible, although it’s hard to imagine a Faulknerian narrative in a movie.  Imo, the book suffered from an overreach on the part of the author. 

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2 Responses to Winter’s Bone ~ by Daniel Woodrell

  1. Keith says:

    Becky, I have not read the book, but the movie was excellent and gritty as it was very real. We are introduced to Jennifer Lawrence, who was nominated for an Oscar for her role. This movie was mentioned by a Jeopardy contestant this week as he helped purchase the movie rights. Keith


    • I know it! And the book didn’t do too shabby in reviews either! I’ll bet if I read it again in a few months I’d be loving it. I don’t go to movies but I had heard of this one. I may be one of the handful of people who didn’t care for it, who knows?


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