I grew up in the Ozarks. I lived in a small town, as opposed to the particular sort of rural extended-family hereditary community portrayed in Winter’...moreI grew up in the Ozarks. I lived in a small town, as opposed to the particular sort of rural extended-family hereditary community portrayed in Winter’s Bone, and I had grown and gone before the meth epidemic (which plays an important part in this story) rolled over the region, but I've seen enough of rural Ozark culture to say Daniel Woodrell's vision rings true. The author draws you right in to this harsh, visceral world with his mastery of description and his authentic characterization.
16-year-old Ree Dolly is a fighter, a survivor; she's tough as old boot leather, intuitive, and loyal. She may be rough around the edges, but she's terrifically competent, courageous, and wise beyond her years. Ree's father has jumped bail, and her family - two young siblings and a mother whose mind is permanently hazed by psychiatric medications - stands to lose their meager home and acreage to the bail-bondsman if he doesn't show for his court date. So Ree determines to hunt him down and to protect her family at all costs. Trouble is, Ree's kin are notoriously tight-lipped and clannish and none too eager to help, and Ree has a long row to hoe if she is to make things right. It's a simple story at the core, but life in rural Ozark country can be surprisingly complicated. Braving both the elements and her own fears, Ree untangles the web of tradition confining her to find the truth.
This book could have been ultimately bleak, and I went into it expecting a real downer. But Ree's spirit rises up from the page and lifts her story to another level. She becomes an archetypal heroine in a modern quest story. Daniel Woodrell has written a whopper of a book with a young Titaness of a protagonist, a brisk and believable read, and I heartily recommend it. (less)
For a story detailing something so bleak as life in a Soviet-era work camp, this novel is surprisingly hope-filled. Ivan Denisovich lives every moment...moreFor a story detailing something so bleak as life in a Soviet-era work camp, this novel is surprisingly hope-filled. Ivan Denisovich lives every moment to the fullest, and although he and his fellow prisoners are certainly cynical and weary, they are also still living, and more fully so than many "free" people, I dare say. Each mouthful of poor-quality gruel, each drag of a newspaper-rolled cigarette, each tiny rebellion is savored to the upmost. In a situation most of us would find intolerable, in which many would surely give up or be ground down, Ivan holds on day after day, year after year, not only to his life and sanity, but also to some measure of pride, a sense of humor, the will to persevere...and even what I can only describe as the virtue of grace. While suffering more than a decade of incarceration in the harshest of conditions, where an individual's basic needs come down to having just enough food to remain conscious, keeping just warm enough to retain the ability to move, and hopefully staying below the radar of the scrutiny of superiors, Ivan triumphs by simply being. His story is harsh, but inspiring, and makes for a true classic of Russian literature.(less)