TK421's Reviews > Winter's Bone

Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell
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's review
Aug 28, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: literary
Read in August, 2011

A few authors over the course of the past few years have recently stood out above the normal, literary crowd—for me, anyways. And the thing I noticed about these authors is that they all seem to write darker fiction. If I had to say, a good representation of these authors is: Roberto Bolano, Cormac McCarthy, Castle Freeman, Jr., and now, Daniel Woodrell.

These authors make up a class of writers that I have termed Brutal Poets. Their use of language invokes a visceral response from the reader, sounds sometimes biblical or archaic, but never forced. The way they describe a landscape that mimics the inner feelings of characters is alarming and disorientating because of its precision and perfection. Basically, these authors seem to really know what it is that they are writing about.

Woodrell, a previous unknown to me before I saw the adaptation of his novel on DVD, is a master storyteller. Terse and sparse, his novel WINTER’S BONE is a punishing reward of a read. The story takes place over a few days in the Ozarks, Appalachia country. Ree Dolly needs to find Jessup, her daddy. He’s skipped out on court, and has put his house and acreage up for collateral for his bond. The problem is something isn’t right. He’s gone missing. And Ree begins to understand more about where she lives exactly, and who the people really are that populate her family and community. Characters like Thump and Uncle Teardrop and even Ree’s Mom add a depth to this story that brings it past a “missing-person” story or a “murder mystery.”

From the moment Ree takes it upon herself to find out the truth about her father, to the moment she has the emotional revelation at the end of the story with Uncle Teardrop, this bleak novel will keep you mesmerized, wanting to turn pages as fast as you can until you have reached the staggering and horrifying conclusion.

Don’t do this. Don’t ruin such a great experience by consuming it whole. Nibble at the book. Let your mind digest it. Savor it. Like a death row inmate being given their last meal, taste every juicy word on every page. Drink up every image and scene. There are plenty of other books out there to scarf down as fast as you can. Not this one.

Warning: be prepared. Oftentimes there are bleak moments like when Ree is beaten by the Milton sisters, and presented in a barn to Thump. When Ree comes to, she and a girl named Megan exchange these words:

Megan squatted, patted Ree’s face, and said, “Whatever are we to do about you, baby girl? Huh?”

“Kill me, I guess.”

“That idea has been said already. Got’ny other ones?”

“Help me. Ain’t nobody said that idea yet, have they?”

This scene still makes my flesh get goose bumps.

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Reading Progress

07/05/2011 page 50
22.0% "damn, this guy can write."
07/06/2011 page 70
31.0% "This is one of the very rare circumstances that the movie has provided such a great portrayl of a character from a work of fiction: and I talking about Teardrop and Thump."
08/20/2011 page 108
48.0% "I am in love with Woodrell's writing style...I wonder if all his books are written this way?"
08/23/2011 page 150
67.0% "I am now labeling Woodrell as a Brutal Poet. His writing is amazing. It nevers seems forced. The way that he describes the environments of this story are both evocative and punishing."
08/27/2011 page 224
100.0% "I am saddened that I have to leave this bleak world, this writing."

Comments (showing 1-12 of 12) (12 new)

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message 1: by Jack (last edited Aug 29, 2011 01:05PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jack Here, Here! Loved the book, love the author.

Two heads up on Woodrell:

You must read Woodrell's "Woe to Live On," his second best book. It's about the brutal border war between Kansans and Missourians, free and slave, ruffians and redlegs, that took place before and during the Civil War. "Woe" sheds some light on what can make a normal person become a terrorist, doing things they never believed they were capable of, not just fighting battles, but committing atrocities.

In October Woodrell's first book of short stories will be released "The Outlaw Album." I've read two of his short stories in other publications. Both were a hard kick in the groin - brutal, beautiful.

TK421 Jack wrote: "Here, Here! Loved the book, love the author.

Thanks for the heads-up, Jack. I will most assuredly be seeking more of his books. Cheers!

Trudi This is a great review Gavin!

TK421 Trudi wrote: "This is a great review Gavin!"

Thanks, Trudi. This was an amazing novel.

message 5: by Rickey (new) - added it

Rickey Will have to read the book. I thought the movie was great.

TK421 Rickey wrote: "Will have to read the book. I thought the movie was great."

I'm positive that the book will blow your mind.

Paul Bryant great review; not read this (yet) but I did see the movie which was very good

Jason I am so eager to start this one!

Jack Woodrell made an appearance at the main Kansas City library last November and I attending. Woodrell lives in the Ozarks and his neighbors, after considering him a California (their word for outsider) for fifteen years, now have admitting him into probationary "local" status. As in Winter's Bone, they are very protective of his privacy and go to great lengths to thwart snoopers.

When author/moderator Whitney Terrell asked Woodrell what he would say to critics who call his work very dark, Woodrell said (I wrote it down) "My writing gets called beak all the time ... I don't see that. There's rays of sunshine all through my work." He paused. "My friends say, 'No, Daniel, you're bleak'"

When asked why his female characters are so often colorful or mean, Woodrell responded, "I'm not that attracted to glasses of water. I like flavor."

I gave my highest recommendation for his new short story collection "The Outlaw Album." See my review if you wish.

message 10: by Gary (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gary Great book! Daniel is a great author...but when I met him in person,and got my copy of Winter's Bone signed by him.....his delivery in reading the book aloud ....the man had no spark in his reading aloud........

Go figure.....but great story,and the movie is awesome too.....The chick from Hunger Games plays the leading role.....

message 11: by Jack (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jack I agree about the aspect of his reading, but he was a gas in the 20+ minute one-on-one interview with Terrell, who was an old grad school classmate.

TK421 I hope to hear him some day. I like that he not easily pigeon-holed into being like this or that...perhaps he is both bleak and likes flavor.

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