owl in winter

owl in winter

Monday, April 5, 2010

Winter's Bone - Supporting Local Writers

I hope you will forgive the bone-chilling photograph. I did it on purpose, yes. Quite honestly, I thought to make a statement.
Daniel Woodrell, author of "Winter's Bone" was asked to explain his latest title. Simple, he replied. The winter part is obvious. The "bone" is slang. Sort of like, "hey give him a break (a bone)." Somehow, in this story, winter gave its heroine, Ree Dolly a bone, a gift, a break.

"Winter's Bone" is a stunningly austere portrait of life in the hard-scrabble Ozarks. It is a hauntingly original tale of stubborness and survival against odds so bleak, so nakedly bare in a winter storm, that the very idea of a break, a bone, a gift, seems completely out of the question.

Ree Dolly is sixteen years old as the story begins. She does not go to school; rather, is kept at home to care for her medically managed mother and her two little brothers. She is part of a huge clan living throughout the Ozarks, a clan of many names but tied together in blood. Her father, Jessup, a notorious "crank cook," disappears into the night and doesn't return. When Ree learns that Jessup not only skipped his court appearance but put the entire family farm up as bond, she goes in search of him. He must come back and fix this fiasco. It is only the grit and grace deep within Ree that keeps her alive as she searches through the Ozarks netherworlds for her missing father.

This is a serious page-turner, folks. It's rich. It's real, sometimes so profoundly real that it will cause you to shudder. It is not a long book by any means but it is a very, very good one. I will tell you, the conclusion is as satisfying as hot bread dripping with real butter.

Now, the photograph is cold, I will be the first to admit it. As I said before, I did it on purpose. Partly because Ree's story takes place in the winter, a particulary unforgiving season in the Ozarks. I also thought about, coming here so many years ago, I thought about the steeliness of the Ozark people, the strength of the clans, the steely cords holding them all together. That is what I was thinking of: steel. Silvery, grey, hard steel.

Ree is made of steel. You will not forget her easily.

Daniel Woodrell lives south of me, somewhere around West Plains, is what I am told. I have yet to find this elusive author who has treated me to such a profound vision of life in the rural Ozarks. However, I said all that to say this: support your local writers. Support them because, one day that could be you striving to push your laurels out there. Support them because, when you support your local writers, you are keeping your own dream alive. Quite frankly, why couldn't the next one out there be you? Think about it.

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