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Winter's Bone
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message 1: by Diane, Armchair Tour Guide (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane | 12832 comments Start discussion here for Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell.


message 2: by Diane, Armchair Tour Guide (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane | 12832 comments From Readinggroupguides.com:

The sheriff's deputy at the front door brings hard news to Ree Dolly. Her father has skipped bail on charges that he ran a crystal meth lab, and the Dollys will lose their house if he doesn't show up for his next court date. Ree's father has disappeared before. The Dolly clan has worked the shadowy side of the law for generations, and arrests (and attempts to avoid them) are part of life in Rathlin Valley.

With two young brothers depending on her and a mother who's entered a kind of second childhood, sixteen-year-old Ree knows she has to bring her father back, dead or alive. She has grown up in the harsh poverty of the Ozarks and learns quickly that asking questions of the rough Dolly clan can be a fatal mistake. But along the way to a shocking revelation, Ree discovers unforeseen depths in herself and in a family network that protects its own at any cost.

Discussion Questions:

1. Ree Dolly is only sixteen. How, in the first pages of Winter's Bone, does she prove herself a mature caretaker and teacher of her little brothers? Given her use of strong language, how does she reveal her tenderness toward her dependents?

2. Ree's mother is medicated for her mental illness, and neighbors donate painkillers to Ree after she takes a beating. The Dolly clan makes a living by producing illegal methamphetamines, and Ree smokes marijuana when it's offered to her. How do mind-altering devices both destroy and make bearable the fabric of life in Rathlin Valley? Do you think moonshine wreaked as much havoc on rural American populations as crystal meth has?

3. How does the fearsome Uncle Teardrop reveal the potential for loyalty and humanity in some of the most hardened members of the Dolly family? Even Merab, the fierce Mrs. Thump, proves herself willing to help Ree save her house and land. What do you think is at the root of this clan's rigid, sometimes brutal moral code? Poverty? Deliberate isolation and separation from mainstream values?

4. Can you imagine better lives, in an earlier time, for people with the Dollys' background? Perhaps before the advent of chemically manufactured drugs and after the first immigration to America? Ree's mother was once a happy beauty who loved to dance, for instance, and Mamaw Bromont --- her mother --- seems to have been a steady matriarch.

5. Ree's married friend, Gail, becomes an intimate of Ree's. How does their passing physical relationship speak to each girl's lack of unconditional love? How is Megan also a purely benign, if misguided, support for Ree?

6. Nature and the elements contribute greatly to the atmosphere of Winter's Bone, for better and for worse. How does Daniel Woodrell convey both the harshness and the beauty of the natural world? In what ways are Ree's walk in the pine woods with her ailing mother and her trip to Bucket Spring to wash her wounds enhanced by Woodrell's description of the landscape? Did you feel Ree's arduous journey to find her father more sharply because of the icy cold?

7. Critics have compared Ree to such classical literary figures as Antigone, Psyche, and even King Lear, and have seen reflections of the Old Testament in the Dolly family's code. How, for you, has Woodrell given his story a mythical stature that reaches beyond its particular Ozarkian hollow?

8. The tension raised by Ree's quest for her father is at times intense for the reader.How does Woodrell temper this anxiety with both humor and tenderness? How does his use of authentic dialect bring his larger-than-life story and characters back to earth?

9. Do you think Ree would have been better off pursuing her dream of joining the military than staying with her dependent family? If not, why?


Michelle (marcher08) I just finished listening to the audiobook. Fantastic! This story was at times so harsh that it is difficult for me to say I "liked" it but it was truly a great book. The writing was excellent. While I don't normally like books with that much strong language, I thought it was interesting how the language of the characters in this book (which at times made me cringe) contrasted with the often quite beautiful descriptions of a scene by the author. I think it helped to emphasize the desperation of Ree's situation. Also I have to say the narrator for the audiobook was perfectly cast. You could hear Ree's pain in her voice.


message 4: by Diane, Armchair Tour Guide (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane | 12832 comments Michelle wrote: "I just finished listening to the audiobook. Fantastic! This story was at times so harsh that it is difficult for me to say I "liked" it but it was truly a great book. The writing was excellent. ..."

I totally agree with how you felt about the contrast between the language and the scenery. This is one of the few books where I didn't feel the use of such strong language was gratuitous. It worked for the storyline. I listened to the audiobook as well, and thought the narrator did a terrific job.


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