One thing I can promise you for sure, is that you will not soon forget Ree Dolly, the ass-kicking heroine of Daniel Woodrell’s brilliant new novel, Winter’s Bone. This book is almost unbearably good; the language alone would almost carry the book for me, but then there’s a riveting plot, and fascinating cast of characters as well. In short, this book has got it all.

Ree Dolly’s father is not only the best crank cooker in their neck of the woods, he is also missing, leaving Ree behind to take care of her checked out mother and two younger brothers. When Ree learns that her father put their house and land up for bail, she sets out to find him or find what happened to him.

What I loved most about this book is that Woodrell is so skilled at letting the reader feel exactly what Ree is feeling: when she is cold, we are cold. When she is beaten and in pain, we are in pain. When she is scared, so are we. And when she feels hope is gone, we do as well.

Tough, earnest, with a strong sense of self and morality, Ree uses every ounce of her strength to do what’s right for her family, which includes putting her own dreams of joining the Army (which is her only option and truly the only option for so many American young people, as hopes of a higher education are entirely out of their grasp) and escaping a certain future of either insanity or running a meth lab of her own or both. All the while, she teaches her two young brothers how to survive and tend to their mother should anything happen to her. She is desperate that these two boys live a different life, even at the expense of her own freedom:

“Yes’m, girl, you oughta go’n get yourself good’n drunk one night and have you a kid. I mean it.”

“No thanks. I already got two. Not countin’ Mom.”

Floyd’s arc of piss slackened until he shook the last drops loose.

“Nobody here wants to be awful,” he said. He hopped a little as he zipped up. “It’s just nobody here knows all the rules yet, and that makes a rocky time.”

One part coming-of-age, one part mystery, one part thriller, one part literary–this book truly defies classification.I don’t want to give you any more of the plot away because you should discover it for yourself. That is to say, read this book. You’ll regret it if you don’t.

And a HUGE thanks to my pal Katrinawho passed this book on to me. Man, I just loved it. Thanks, Kat!

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