Kemper's Reviews > Winter's Bone

Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell
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Jan 27, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: crime-mystery, modern-lit, 2011, bouchercon, signed-by-author, rednecks, favorites
Read on January 27, 2011

I grew up in a rural area with no shortage of poor rednecks so I thought I knew about country poverty, but the people I knew with their decayed farm houses and trailers lived like Donald Trump compared to the backwoods clan of hill folk in this book.

Ree Dolly is a 16-year old girl who dropped out of high school to take care of her crazy mother and two younger brothers. She lives in a remote part of the Ozarks where the only job opportunities are in crystal meth production. Ree plans on joining the army the second she’s old enough, and she’s trying to prepare her brothers to take care of themselves once she leaves.

Ree’s father, Jessup, hasn’t been home in weeks, but that’s nothing new so she isn’t concerned until a deputy shows up looking for him. Ree is shocked to learn that Jessup is out on bond and used their house as collateral. If he doesn’t show for his court date in a few days, Ree and her family will be homeless during a harsh winter. Ree has no choice but to start asking her extended family if they know where her father is, but this is dangerous because the closed mouth rednecks don’t like people asking questions, even if they’re kin. The only one who even kinda helps her is her crazy Uncle Teardrop who got half his head melted in a meth lab fire, and he’s not exactly reliable. Ree will soon figure out that her daddy got himself into big trouble with the family and looking for him will bring more of the same to her.

Daniel Woodrell created a stark portrait of rural poverty where shooting squirrels for supper and chopping wood for heat are still routine chores. Then he put a character you can’t help but love in the middle of it. Ree is smart and tough, but even rarer in her world, she’s managed to hang on to a sense of dignity. She has no illusions, but she isn’t cynical or cold either. She’s doing everything she can to protect her brothers and mother, and she has a touching relationship with her best friend Gail, who got pregnant and married a man she barely knows.

Short, but powerful, this a terrific novel with a heroine you won’t forget.
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Comments (showing 1-18 of 18) (18 new)

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Amanda Damn. You beat me to a review! I read this back in October and I've tried to review it a few times, but felt that everything I wrote just didn't do it justice. Have you seen the movie version?


Kemper Amanda wrote: "Damn. You beat me to a review!

Too slow! I haven't seen the movie yet, but after reading this, it's moving up the Netflix list to next pick.


Amanda This is one of the rare instances where I'm willing to admit the movie is almost as good as the book. They've really managed to capture the bleakness of life set against the stark beauty of nature in the Ozarks. I was a little leery since so many movies set there serve to parade around a bunch of redneck stereotypes, but they certainly did right by the novel. I highly recommend it.


Kemper I was a little worried that the movie might turn the family into hillbilly cartoons but sounds like they did it right.


Amanda Never fear. No one is told they have a pretty mouth or asked to squeal like a pig.


James Thane I just finished Woodrell's Tomato Red, which I liked very much and haven't had a chance to review yet. I'll add this one to my list.


Kemper James wrote: "I just finished Woodrell's Tomato Red, which I liked very much and haven't had a chance to review yet. I'll add this one to my list."

I loved Woodrell's book Woe to Live On that got turned into the movie Ride With the Devil (which filmed a lot around my old home town) also.


Kemper Amanda wrote: "Never fear. No one is told they have a pretty mouth or asked to squeal like a pig."

So no banjo duels?


Amanda Nary a one. And everyone wears shoes.


Kemper Amanda wrote: "Nary a one. And everyone wears shoes."

Watched the movie tonight and it was excellent. One of the few flicks to get that redneck vibe right. The girl who played Ree was great. And I didn't know that Sol from Deadwood played Uncle Teardrop. Plus, Garrett Dillahunt, or young Clint Eastwood as I call him. Great film adaptation.


Amanda They definitely got the violence and the loyalty right. That's what really impressed me about Woodrell's novel. For all the ugliness born of such a hardscrabble life, there's also a kind of beauty beneath the surface in the family ties and unquestioned loyalty. It reminds the reader that these are human beings, something that is often left out of literary and film portrayals of that particular social class. I was relieved when I saw the movie version remained true to Woodrell's portrayal.


Kemper Amanda wrote: "They definitely got the violence and the loyalty right.

Yeah, you're right. They really nailed that independent/loyalty/family thing without turning them into stereotypes or overly glorifying it either.


Trudi Kemper, I'm nervous to review this one as I loved it so much and can't imagine how I'd do it justice. You, however, have nothing to worry about. Excellent review!


Kemper Trudi wrote: "Kemper, I'm nervous to review this one as I loved it so much and can't imagine how I'd do it justice. You, however, have nothing to worry about. Excellent review!"

Thanks. It's tough reviewing the ones you love, isn't it? Have you seen the movie?


Trudi Kemper wrote: "Have you seen the movie? ..."

Yes, and I loved it. The actress who plays Ree is wonderful. The cinematography is spectacular too.


Kathryn Great review. I am about to start reading this, and Trudi's review led me to your review. Can't wait to read it. I saw the movie a few years ago, and I loved it.


Kemper Kathryn wrote: "Great review. I am about to start reading this, and Trudi's review led me to your review. Can't wait to read it. I saw the movie a few years ago, and I loved it."

Thanks! Hope you like the book.


message 18: by Liz (new) - added it

Liz The movie version blew me away. It depicted a reality many have no idea exists in our times, and I thought Jennifer Lawrence was amazing--able to show off her talent much more than her big Hollywood role that followed. Anyway, it made me want to read the book and so does your review.


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