I’m just going to be completely honest here and say that what really drew me to this book in the first place was its oscar-nominated 2010 film adaptation of the same name, starring Jennifer Lawrence. Because I am how I am, I made sure that I wouldn’t watch the film before reading the book, and now, I’ve finally done both. Winter’s Bone tells the story of Ree Dolly, a girl from the Ozarks, whose father has skipped bail charges related to crystal meth production and now has one week to find her father before she loses her home. First of all I want to talk about what was by far the best aspect of this book: the writing. As David Bowman from the New York Times said, Woodrell has an “Old Testament prose and (a) blunt vision”. You can tell he puts a lot of work into each and every word of his prose, to leave the reader drooling at the utter beauty of his elaborate and descriptive sentences, as well as giving life to the book’s setting, and putting you in the atmosphere of this cold, isolated, and subtlety horrifying place. I’d even go as far as describing the setting as a main character who holds just as much importance as Ree. Ree Dolly is another highlight of the book, her character is extremely well-developed and sympathetic (yet still very flawed) in the best way possible. She’s tough and takes no bullshit from anyone, she knows what a hard life is. Ree Dolly is many things. She is a tough girl. She is a teenager forced into adulthood by her surroundings and who has experienced the roughness of many regular adult lives put together. She is a big sister who has been forced to take the lead in her family and take care of her two little brothers and unstable mother, both of whom prove in the course of the novel to be more important than anything else, through a poignant yet subtle character arc. The next thing I loved about this book is its themes. It deals with addiction and the destructive effects that drugs (especially meth in this case) can have on not only its direct user/producer, but also this person’s family. Stunning metaphors related to cold and snow are drawn to send these messages. One of these being based on the fact that meth users tend to feel cold as a side effect, and the book repeats over and over again the fact that Ree Dolly is feeling cold, the impact of her father’s relation with meth still affects Ree, despite her refusing to have meth at lots of points in the book. The only problem I had with the book was that it dragged at parts, long parts where absolutely nothing (nor plot-wise nor character-wise) were sprinkled here and there, and there weren’t to many of these, but there were a couple of parts on the book where I felt like (but didn’t) skim-reading it until it was over. Overall, Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell is a great book due to its magnificent setting and prose, strong and layered main character, and relevant themes, but doesn’t reach perfection (or the closest it could get to that) due to its often dragging sessions. 4/5 stars.
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