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224 pages, Paperback
First published January 1, 2006
"She could be beat with a garden rake and never cry and had proved that twice before Mamaw saw an unsmiling angel pointing from the treetops at dusk and quit the bottle. She would never cry where her tears might be seen and counted against her."Unlike other lauded "tough" heroines in the recent literature, her toughness is not in the "leave me the hell alone" variety of Lisbeth Salander or grumpy variety of Katniss Everdeen. Ree is tough in the true survivor way. She has no other choice - she is the oldest child in the Ozarks "bred'n buttered" family of a crystal meth cook father and a mentally unstable near-catatonic mother, with nobody else to care for her two younger brothers. And now she is this close to losing the only thing they own - their home - to the bail bondsman, unless Ree can somehow prove that her allegedly bail-jumping father is dead. And that's not an easy thing to do when the world would rather have you shut up and not ask questions.
'Whatever are we to do about you, baby girl? Huh?'But this short novel is not as much about Ree's quest to figure out what happened to her missing father - she and the reader already have a good idea what happened to Jessup Dolly - as it is about showing a fascinating albeit harrowing picture of the cruel, backwards, meth-ruled world of the Ozarks. Ree Dolly lives in a hostile, harsh, and unforgiving world that follows no law but its own. She is surrounded by distant kin members that make up the majority of this rural mountain community. But very soon she learns that blood ties do not always mean much, that there quite a few matters about which her neighbors and relatives would much rather remain tight-lipped. And they will not hesitate to do whatever they feel is necessary to silence the uncomfortable questions, even if they come from a teenage girl.
'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?'
"The men came to mind as mostly idle between nights of running wild or time in the pen, cooking moon and gathering around the spout, with ears chewed, fingers chopped, arms shot away, and no apologies grunted ever. The women came to mind bigger, closer, with their lonely eyes and homely yellow teeth, mouths clamped against smiles, working in the hot fields from can to can't, hands tattered rough as dry cobs, lips cracked all winter, a white dress for marrying, a black dress for burying."The only thing that being a woman earns for you is that you probably won't be beaten half-dead and bloody by a man (unless he is "your" man, as Ree's little brother notes). But it's little consolation given that the women Ree meets do not lack viciousness. Misogyny is everywhere, and is viewed as a normal part of life. Nobody has much in this world, and women least of all. And if you are half-dead from a beating, and your uncle is about to raise mayhem, you, of course, will be the one to blame.
"Love and hate hold hands always so it made natural sense that they'd get confused by upset married folk in the wee hours once in a while and a nosebleed or bruised breast might result. But it just seemed proof that a great foulness was afoot in the world when a no-strings roll in the hay with a stranger led to chipped teeth or cigarette burns on the wrist."
In Ree's heart there was room for more. Any evening spent with Gail was like one of the yearning stories from her sleep was happening awake. Sharing the small simple parts of life with someone who stood tall in her feelings.I hope she finds a way out, I hope she finds a way to keep her awesome self intact, I hope she succeeds in raising her brothers the way she wants to and not the way the society expects them to be. She is definitely strong enough for that, and I hope her spine is indeed made of steel. She will need it to survive.
"I ain't leavin' you boys. Why do you think that?'
'We heard you once, talkin' 'bout the army and places we wouldn't be. Are you wantin' to leave us?'
'Naw. I'd get lost without the weight of you two on my back.'
Houses above looked caught on the scraggly hillsides like crumbs in a beard and apt to fall as suddenly. They’d been there two or three lifetimes, though, and cascades of snow, mushes of rain, and huffing spring wind had tried to knock them loose and send them tumbling but never did. There were narrow footpaths wending all about the slopes between the trees, along the rock ledges, from house to house, and in better weather Ree thought Hawkfall looked sort of enchanted, if a place could be enchanted but not too friendly.
The big man and prophet who’d found messages from the Fist of Gods written on the entrails of a sparkling golden fish lured with prayer from a black river way east near the sea was Haslam, Fruit of Belief.
“It don’t seem like you’ve got to try none, girl, smarty-mouth shit just flies out your yap anytime your yap falls open.”In fact, it’s that smarty-mouth yap of hers that, while nearly getting her killed on occasion, is somehow related to her stubborn persistence that ensures her and her family’s survival over the long term—survival in spite of an extended family of drug runners who value their personal safety above kinship, and survival in the face of the unforgiving landscape of the frozen Ozarks. Put another way, Dolly’s little world makes District 12 seem like peaches and bubblegum. And yes, I realize that Everdeen has to duel to the death in an arena filled with poisonous jabberjays or whatever, but there is a strong sense of reality pervading Winter’s Bone that makes it far more bone chilling.
Oh, and by the way, this was my favorite film of 2010. What was at the time an excellent 5-star film I now see as an excellent 5-star film adaptation.↑ ↑ ↑ ↑ ↑ ↑ ↑ ↑ ↑
(It is fucking cold.)
"Walnuts were still falling when Ree saw him last. Walnuts were thumping to ground in the night like stalking footsteps of some large thing that never quite came into view, and Jessup had paced on this porch in a worried slouch, dented nose snuffling, lantern jaw smoked by beard, eyes uncertain and alarmed by each walnut thump. The darkness and those thumps out in the darkness seemed to keep him jumpy. He paced until a decision popped into his head, then started down the steps, going fast into the night before his mind could change. He said, 'Start lookin' for me soon as you see my face. 'Til then, don't even wonder."
Never. Never ask for what ought to be offered.
Love and hate hold hands always so it made natural sense that they'd get confused by upset married folk in the wee hours once in a while and a nosebleed or bruised breast might result. But it just seemed proof that a great foulness was afoot in the world when a no-strings roll in the hay with a stranger led to chipped teeth or cigarette burns on the wrist. `Winter's Bone