WINTER'S BONE by Daniel Woodrell; Little, Brown Inc., 2006

I wish I could accurately convey the necessary admiration for this writer and especially for this book. In today’s publishing climate, it’s frankly a miracle that James Patterson’s publisher had the balls to release such a decidedly non-commercial work.  While you might find both Woodrell and Patterson in the crime section of your local bookstore, (well, you’ll definitely find Patterson—you’ll be lucky to find Woodrell) their worlds couldn’t be any different.

It’s been way too long since Woodrell’s last book, The Death of Sweet Mister, but we devotees are used to a bit of waiting time. As always, Woodrell’s story has a classical feel: Sixteen year-old Ree Dolly is forced into taking care of her younger brothers and mentally ill mother after her father, a crystal meth cooker and petty criminal, skips town once again.  This time it’s serious though:  If Jessup Dolly doesn’t make it back in a few days, he’ll miss his court date and the family home will be taken away. Ree Dolly, one of the strongest young women in modern literature, embarks on her own odyssey through the surrounding Ozark hollers and towns to bring her father back, dead or alive.

As always, Woodrell’s prose is whittled down to its essence, spare and sinewy, combining modern idiom with a far older, more formal diction appropriate to the region.  If you’ve never read Woodrell, you’re in for a treat. Think early Cormac McCarthy combined with Donald Harington and James M. Cain and you’re on the right track.

-Patrick Milliken


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