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Winter's Bone    by Daniel Woodrell order for
Winter's Bone
by Daniel Woodrell
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2006 (2006)

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Apart from the plotline, Winter's Bone is magical - if a hard life in the Appalachians could ever be called magical. Author Woodrell takes the reader to the very depths of the mountains - and the heights - to tell his story of a family.

It's late fall and provisions need to be stocked for the coming winter. Ree Dolly's father leaves the cabin, muttering that he'll be back. Ree believes differently. Her Daddy is known for his disappearances. But this one could have tragic consequences. Jessop Dolly is out jail on a bail bond, for which he put up the house in which Ree, her two smaller brothers and demented mother live. If Daddy doesn't show, they'll all be out in the ice and snow of an Arkansas mountain winter.

Sixteen year-old Ree takes the burden of her Daddy's desertion onto her own shoulders. How she handles this is a treat to read. The reader has to admire the young girl's gumption and the shrug of the shoulder she gives to her own and her family's plight. After all, what options has she? She attempts to find her Daddy. That's when the story really starts. I shivered as I read of Ree's trudging the icy mountain looking for help. Family loyalty goes just so far - as she painfully discovers. Cold and miserable, in danger of freezing, Ree simply does what has to be done. She sees it no other way. The large Dolly clan puts obstacles in Ree's way as she asks questions - even when told not to.

The hard life of a mountain person seems almost fantasy to one who lives a warm and comfortable existence. But I know - from visits to the mountains of North Carolina - that it is a different breed who can survive in what we would call a harsh and demanding setting. The amenities are available, but the crank cookers put a whole new slant on a normal life style. Winter's Bone is a small gem of a book. It won't leave you feeling uplifted but will instill a sense of the strength of the human spirit, and of unquestioning loyalty.

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