February 7, 2012

Winter’s Bone, by Daniel Woodrell



So, Sunday I idly picked up Winter’s Bone to read as I put the kids down for a nap.  I didn’t put it down until the final page that evening.  What a great book!  What an amazing book!  Daniel Woodrell’s language is so precise yet muscular yet characteristic yet … It’s just amazing.  He calls his work Ozark noir, and it is.  I love how he rendered his 16-year-old female main character Ree.  She’s the country gals I know ~ tough but caring, practical.  I can’t read more of Daniel’s work.  But rather me going on and on, here’s a taste. 

Ree Dolly stood at break of day on her cold front steps and smelled coming flurries and saw meat. Meat hung from trees across the creek. The carcasses hung pale of flesh with a fatty gleam from low limbs of saplings in the side yards. Three halt haggard houses formed a kneeling rank on the far creekside and each had two or more skinned torsos dangling by rope from sagged limbs, venison left to the weather for two nights and three days so the early blossoming of decay might round the flavor, sweeten that meat to the bone.
Snow clouds had replaced the horizon, capped the valley darkly, and chafing wind blew so the hung meat twirled from jigging branches.  Ree, brunette and sixteen, with milk skin and abrupt green eyes, stood bare-armed in a fluttering yellowed dress, face to the wind, her cheeks reddening as if smacked and smacked again.  She stood tall in combat boots, scarce at the waist but plenty through the arms and shoulders, a body made for loping after needs. She smelled the frosty wet in the looming clouds, thought of her shadowed kitchen and lean cupboard, looked to the scant woodpile, shuddered.  The coming weather meant wash hung outside would freeze into planks, so she’d have to stretch clothesline across the kitchen above the woodstove, and the puny stack of wood split for the potbelly would not last long enough to dry much except Mom’s underthings and maybe a few T-shirts for the boys.  Ree knew there was no gas for the chain saw, so she’d be swinging the ax out back while winter blew into the valley and fell around her.

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