Winter's Bone, by Daniel Woodrell
Written by
Barbara Morrison
November 2011
Written by
Barbara Morrison
November 2011

Everyone was talking about the film a few months ago, but I wanted to read the book first. It starts with a chilling scene: Ree Dolly, in thin cotton dress and combat boots standing on the front steps buffetted by the wind of an approaching snowstorm, staring at deer carcasses hanging from trees across the creek. The meat belongs to relatives who may or may not share it with sixteen-year-old Ree and her two younger brothers. In any case, the children won’t ask for it, but will instead make do with grits.

This is not a scene from one of Margaret Bourke-White’s Depression-era photos of poverty in the rural South. This is the present-day in the Ozarks where drugs are everywhere and many children are “dead to wonder by age twelve, dulled to life, empty of kindness, boiling with mean.” There may be two hundred Dollys and even more other kin within thirty miles of their valley, but Ree is on her own when it comes to protecting her family. Her mother is sunk in dementia while her father, Jessup, has gone off when the walnuts were falling, without leaving money, food, or a woodpile for winter, telling Ree to look for him when she sees him.


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