Winter’s Bone Review
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Sixteen-year-old Ree Dolly was born and raised (“bred’n buttered,” she’d tell you) in the Ozarks, in the same house where her mother’s family has lived for years. Ree’s father, Jessup, disappeared long ago—after he was bailed out of jail on his latest drug charge—leaving Ree to take care of her mentally ill mother and her two younger brothers. But Jessup’s court date is just a week away—and Ree finds out that if he doesn’t show, they’ll lose everything they’ve got left. So she decides that it’s up to her to find her daddy before she’s forced to move her family into a cave in the mountains.

Ree begins by checking with her gruff Uncle Teardrop, who tells her to mind her own business—but Ree knows that it’s become her business, and she’s determined to get some answers. So she continues to search for answers, traveling through the snow and ice from one relative to another, trying to find someone who will help her. No one wants to answer Ree’s questions, though, and the harder she tries, the harder they fight back.

Winter’s Bone isn’t a fast-paced, action-packed work of crime fiction. Instead, it’s a beautifully picturesque and forcefully dramatic read about the life of a poor southern girl who’s just trying to take care of her family. The pace is relaxed and often ambling, but it works that way—because the Dollys’ life isn’t a fast-paced, action-packed one. It’s a life of hunting squirrels for dinner and chopping wood for a fire and trying to find the ingredients for a decent stew so the family won’t have to go hungry. It’s a life of living off the land—and the help of your family.

Woodrell paints a vivid picture of life in the Ozarks—through the characters and their dialog as well as through his descriptions. It’s so vivid, in fact, that the conclusion doesn’t really matter all that much. What matters is journey.

Winter’s Bone may be a little slow and heavy for fans of mainstream fiction. But readers who appreciate the occasional literary treat will want to check it out.

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