An amazing cast of characters makes Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell a chilling story. 16 year-old Ree Dolly must find her crank-cooking daddy for a court date, or she, her scrappy little brothers, and their blank-eyed mama will lose their home to the bail bondsmen and end up living in a cave in the Missouri Ozarks, or worse. Someone in her tight-lipped distant family, mostly addicts, alcoholics, felons and wife beaters, knows where Jessup Dolly is, but they aren’t talking, because “talking just causes witnesses…” and Dolly risks her own life poking around in territory where even bitter hardscrabble women kin protect their men:
They came with the dark and knocked with three fists. The door shook as the clamor of beating knuckles filled the house. Ree glanced from a window and saw three like women, chesty and jowly, wearing long clothes of differing colors and barnyard galoshes. She fetched her pretty shotgun before opening the door. She jabbed the twin barrels toward the belly of Mrs. Thump, Merab, but did not speak. The shotgun felt like an unspent lightning bolt in her hands and trembled. None of the sisters flinched or stepped back or changed expression.
Like the character Bone in “Bastard Out of Carolina,” Ree Dolly is a heroine worth rooting for. She’s fiercely loyal, unsentimental about her daddy, maybe even a smidge proud of his crystal-meth cooking talents, and though she’d never touch the stuff herself, she’s not above a swig of whiskey or toke of a joint when life gets too hard. She can split wood, shoot and skin squirrel, and must teach her little brothers how to shoot and fight as well as wash their addled mother’s hair for her. Your heart aches for Ree while Woodrell’s stunning yet sparse prose hits like grapeshot to the gut. Highly recommended!