Thursday, September 15, 2011

Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell

The Ozarks are scary!

    Ree Dolly is a teenage girl in the Ozark mountains who is faced with a nearly impossible task.  Her father, a well-known meth cook, has disappeared just a few days before he is expected to appear in court.  He left his family's house and property up for collateral on a bail bond, and Ree is left alone to care for her two younger brothers and their mentally ill mother.  Ree is suspicious about her father's disappearance and sets out on a dangerous mission to find out what really happened to him.  Ree and her family live in crushing poverty, so she is desperate to find a way to save their property.  She is relentless in her search, boldly asking questions that lead to painful and life-threatening answers.

   Daniel Woodrell's imagery in this book is finely crafted around the harsh landscape of the Ozarks.  His portrayal of the setting is of a land that time forgot - its inhabitants are poor, hungry and isolated, and survival is a challenge.  Woodrell's prose reminds me of the way Wayne Caldwell describes Appalachia in Cataloochee -a place where people are often doomed by loyalty to their land and their heritage.

   Ree Dolly is a unique heroine.  She is young but faced with tremendous responsibilities, so she becomes tough and fearless in the face of danger.  There are also some strong lesbian undertones within Ree's relationship with her best friend, Gail, which is something you rarely see (at least in a positive sense) in such a rural setting.  While Ree's sexuality is not clearly defined by Woodrell, the implication adds an interesting and refreshing dynamic to the story, and to the genre of rural/southern literature.

   Winter's Bone was adapted to film in 2010 and was nominated for several Academy Awards.  It's available to watch instantly on Netflix, which is exactly what I think I'm going to do this weekend.