Heidi's Reviews > Bloodroot

Bloodroot by Amy Greene
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May 22, 12

bookshelves: read-in-2012
Read in February, 2012

Narrated by six different voices, the novel tells the story of four generations of an Appalachian family starting from the era of the great depression to the present time. Said to be slightly “magical” due to their knowledge of herb lore and the secrets of the stunningly beautiful but often harsh mountain country that surrounds them, each member of the family must fight his/her own battle with tragedy, poverty, mental illness and domestic violence arising both from the circumstances they were born into as well as the choices they have made. Centred around the character of Myra, a beautiful and mystical girl growing up with her grandparents in these wild and isolated Appalachian mountains, the book describes how her ill-fated love for a violent alcoholic ultimately leads to tragedy, breaking her spirit and shaping the lives of those around her, including her twin children.

Despite its often bleak and harsh subject matter, the book drew me in and captivated me to the very end. The author’s intimate knowledge of the countryside shows in her wonderfully descriptive writing style, aided by the different voices of her characters, who each bring a different perspective to the story. Whilst I suffered for Myra as I watched her independent spirit getting broken by her husband’s relentless violence, my heart went out to her twin children who have to grow up with the legacy of the choices she has made. Byrdie, the grandmother, was the hero of the story for me, with her endless love for her family despite the tragedies she has survived and her helplessness in the face of Myra’s choices. All characters are certainly unique and perfectly reflect the setting of the novel, to the point where the reader can almost feel the harsh mountain wind whistling around dark cabins and hear the mysterious screams of wild animals in the night.

This is not a feel-good book, but it tells of the resilience of the human spirit in the face of tragedy and how we each battle with the circumstances of our birth and the country we are born into. Whilst there is no ending as such, and it is largely left to the reader to imagine the fate of some of the characters, the final voice in the epilogue of the novel cleverly makes the reader reflect on previous emotions towards one of the central characters in the story and taking into consideration all circumstances rather than passing judgment on anyone.

All in all I really enjoyed this book, though I found the subject matter of unrelenting violence and struggle depressing at times.
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