Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell

Winter's Bone by Daniel WoodrellWinter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell is the first book since Minette Walters’s The Shape of Snakes that genuinely took my breath away. On the surface there is absolutely nothing pretty about the world in which 16-year-old Ree Dolly lives. The people of her community in the backwoods of the Ozark mountains are multiple generations into an existence of poverty, violence and drug addiction; a place where the primary source of income has evolved from making moonshine to cooking crank.

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).

Winter’s Bone has been developed into a film, which recently won the Grand Jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival, that will be released on June 11th.

Winter’s Bone was one of my Top 10 Reads of 2010

– Winter’s Bone: Movie Trailer –


  • A Good Stopping Point

    March 20, 2011 - 8:11 PM

    […] Book Reviews of Elizabeth A. White – “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.” […]

  • Waylon

    June 29, 2010 - 1:41 PM

    Very well written and extremely informative.

  • Alan Harmon

    April 28, 2010 - 10:33 AM

    Great book review! Sounds like the author really did a great job of setting up the setting to really engage the reader.