Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell

Many of us have fallen on hard times in this economy. We see the effects all around us, yet most of us still have our basic needs met: we have food, we have shelter, and we have family and friends.

Ree Dolly is not afforded the same luxuries that some of us take for granted. In the novel Winter’s Bone by Missouri writer Daniel Woodrell, Ree is the lone caregiver for her two younger brothers at the age of 16. Food and money are scarce, and her home is about to be taken away. Ree’s estranged father used their home as collateral for his bail, and unless he shows up to court the family will be forced to leave. It is up to Ree to find her father in the Ozark hills before she loses everything.

The harsh back mountain winter is only one of Ree’s many problems. The Dolly family is a tight-lipped clan with a drug business on the side. As Ree searches for answers among family members, she falls further and further into trouble with the less sympathetic side of her kin. Ree is a strong, young female who is struggling with her own desire to break free from her tangled life in the hills while accepting that she is the only hope for her younger brothers and invalid mother.

I initially struggled with the text in this novel, as it seemed to move slowly and appeared to leaves holes in the story. I was unsure about exactly what was happening. As I read further however, I began to notice the author’s beautiful style developing in the plot of the story. The tone is very subtle and almost humorous in some parts, because the reality of the situation is desperate in a way that some of us might not be familiar with.

I recently viewed the film adaptation of this novel and I was impressed by its transition to the screen. Winter's Bone the movie was released in 2010 and was nominated for four Academy Awards. The film stands on its own as an interesting story, but also stays fairly true to the events in the novel. As an independent film, the movie represents the book in a way that a large studio film company could not. Some of the underlying plot of the book appeared to be left out in the film, but many of the small details only a reader would recognize were included.

Members of my book club also initially found the story hard to digest because of the garish images painted by the author and the book’s overall severely bleak outlook on life. Although after further reading and some discussion, several of us were able to enjoy the mystery and innuendo suggested by the story on a deeper level. We were able to pull off layers of the story and see that even in very dark times there has to be hope for something better.

Novels like Winter’s Bone are there to remind us that the world is not a perfect place and to give us a different perspective on how others live.

About the Author

Megan Garrett

Megan Garrett is the librarian at the Sugar Creek Branch of the Kansas City Public Library. She also writes book reviews for the Independence Examiner newspaper.