Fortunately for Ree her father, Jessup, is in demand as a crank chef, “practically half famous for it.” Unfortunately for her and the two younger brothers and mentally ill mother she’s struggling to keep fed and functioning, Jessup has gone missing after being released on bond, a bond secured by signing over the family home as collateral, following his most recent arrest. Unwilling to see her family split up if they lose the family’s meager homestead, Ree sets out to find Jessup and make him keep his court date.
Not only is Jessup nowhere to be found, however, but none of the locals, many of them extended members of the Dolly family, seem inclined to help Ree with her search. In fact, they are downright hostile to her inquiries and seemingly determined to derail her efforts, even by means of violence if necessary. Yet, Ree persists. And throughout it all Woodrell offers glimpses of the hidden beauty lurking beneath the surface of the stark environment, and conveys in no uncertain terms that the people who inhabit it have a deep sense of honor, pride and purpose, just ones that don’t necessarily mesh with what most consider normal.
Winter’s Bone is quite possibly the most ‘perfect’ novel I’ve ever experienced. And I do mean experienced, because Winter’s Bone is not something that one merely reads. Woodrell demands the reader become fully immersed in the world he’s created, taking you along step-for-step with Ree on her journey. And what unfolds over the course of Woodrell’s taut 200 page story is a testament to the human spirit. No word is wasted, and the look at Ree’s life that is presented is unflinching. Winter’s Bone is a book that you not so much ‘enjoy’ as you do appreciate, and you will. Deeply.
Winter’s Bone is available from Back Bay Books (ISBN: 978-0316066419).