When Ree Dolly’s father goes missing, she is told that he had used the family property as collateral for bail money. With little choice, Ree makes the decision to track him down and bring him to court.
Daniel Woodrell’s WINTER’S BONE has flown under my radar for years now. About a decade ago, the film adaptation garnered a ton of buzz with Jennifer Lawrence earning herself an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Ree. I kept saying I would get to it eventually and happily let it simmer on the backburner of my brain. When I was looking for something different – and more importantly short – to read, I grabbed this one when it went on sale through the Kindle store.
WINTER’S BONE is the definition of a moody and atmospheric novel with the weather as central a character to the experience as anyone in the story. Woodrell leans heavily on the impoverished culture of the drug-stricken Ozarks, truly giving this novel a feeling of unforgiving cruelty. Setting it during the late days of fall before winter cuts through with its relentless bleakness was also a nice touch; it gives a hard-edge to an already remorseless group of people who stand between Ree and the truth.
Ree was such a captivating character. She seemed to be one of the few with ambitions to get up and get out of her community – kind of like a backwoods George Bailey. With an ailing mother and young siblings on the verge of falling into bad habits, Ree cannot simply unplug herself and hit the road. She has to be their protector. Ree, knowing this life will eventually extinguish all hope deep inside her, makes it all the more tragic to watch her desperately try and swim against the current.
WINTER’S BONE is a quick, uncompromising look at a community on the fringes of modern society – a people fighting hard for their place in the world reduced to trafficking poison just to get by.