Tag: Jennifer Lawrence

Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell

Posted June 15, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime / 15 Comments

Winter’s Bone by Daniel WoodrellTitle: Winter's Bone (Goodreads)
Author: Daniel Woodrell
Published: Back Bay Books, 2006
Pages: 193
Genres: Crime
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Ree Dolly’s father has just skipped bail for Crystal meth charges. They will lose their house if he doesn’t show for his next court date. With two little brothers depending on her, Ree knows she must find and bring back her father dead or alive. But life in the Ozarks is harsh and she learns quickly that asking questions could be fatal.

I really wanted to read something dark and gritty like The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock and I was recommended Winter’s Bone. Daniel Woodrell describes this style as country noir and that was enough to sell me on the book, I knew nothing about the novel except there was an adaptation recently starring Jennifer Lawrence but I’ve still not seen it. The novel takes place just outside a fictional town in Missouri Ozarks where the Dolly’s have been known to be involved in the manufacturing of methamphetamine. This bleak landscape full of terrifying people makes for a dark southern novel that should satisfy most noir fans.

The plot is pretty straight forward but the continual helplessness of 16 year old Ree Dolly’s situation is what makes this book deliciously bleak. As many noir fans know, the dark and unforgiving landscape mixed with the bleakness of the plot can only strengthen a novel like this. For such a simple story line, I was presently surprised just how well Daniel Woodrell executed this novel; blurring the lines of morality and motivating the protagonist to protect her two unruly brothers and her catatonic mother from the bail bondsman and the sins of her father.

The rest of the world seems to have a negative opinion of Ree and her family, some often hostile and violent. While I understand why people hate the Dolly’s because of the meth they are selling to their community, I found it interesting to experience this from Ree’s perspective. I use to live across the road from a meth lab and while I didn’t know about it, the reactions of the people when they hear this story is really interesting, my experience was the increase in police patrols seemed to be a positive. So while we don’t know just how innocent Ree is and how involved she was in her father’s entrepreneurial ventures, I was more interested in the stigma that came with her name.

I’m not sure if we can call Ree the hero of this novel, most of the time she is just walking around and getting assaulted  but she isn’t a villain or anti-hero either. So I have to wonder what role does she play in this novel. She was strong, stubborn and takes a lot of physical punishment without complaining, so this is more of a survival story.

I’m sure this book might be considered as controversial in the Ozarks; I don’t think Daniel Woodrell is suggesting these people are all like the people in his book but I have to wonder if maybe he was a little too harsh. I accept this harshness as part of the country noir style and not a true representation of the people of Missouri so I hope they do as well.

I was really surprised how well this simple little story worked with all the dark and noirish themes. Granted it wasn’t as dark or as enjoyable as The Devil All the Time but it was still worth reading. If people have recommendations of novels that are like The Devil All the Time I would love to hear them (or I could just reread that novel). I was impressed with Daniel Woodrell and will venture to read some more of his novels. Country Noir is a great style and I am fast becoming a fan of the style.