Moray Barclay's Reviews > Winter's Bone

Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell
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Nov 05, 11

Read in November, 2011

The heroine, Ree Dolly, is sixteen years old and lives in a self-policing society. Her story could have been set anytime in the last two hundred years, and anywhere that operates outside the law. It is timeless: a world where rules and hierarchies are determined by simple codes and family history, explained by word-of-mouth but only to the very young, and enforced by violence. "Winter's Bone" happens to be set in the present day among the ancient families and remote valleys of the United States’ Deep South.

Ree wants to leave, but she is trapped. Her mother is on medication, and her two brothers are still in the early years of school. Within the first few pages we learn that her father has posted their ramshackle house as collateral for his bail, and then disappeared. If he does not appear in court within the week, Ree and her family are homeless. In seeking answers, Ree can only turn to a community whose code discourages questions. Conflict is inevitable.

At less than two hundred pages, this book is brief but it is not scant. Daniel Woodrell wastes few words. An early example: “Once the pile of [logs] became big enough to sit on, she did.” The book’s final word could have been replaced by a thousand. The uplifting ending is satisfying and fully acceptable. It is worth the journey, a rollercoaster of humour, threat and, necessarily, horror.

“Winter’s Bone” could have been set anytime in the last two hundred years, and anywhere that operates outside the law. But it could also be set anytime, and anywhere, in the future. It describes a world of anarchy, in the proper sense. It illustrates why the people who would survive would be those who are like Ree Dolly, a true heroine.
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