Monday, April 28, 2008

WINTER'S BONE by Daniel Woodrell

The Book: Daniel Woodrell, WINTER'S BONE. Little, Brown & Co., 2006 (first edition). Signed by the author. Fine condition.
First read: 2007
Owned since: 2007

I'm still in LA -- leaving late tonight -- and staying with my friends Linda and Tim, so today's post needed to be a book that is on both their shelves and mine. It's also one of Linda's all-time favorites, and a book I acquired at last year's LA Times Festival of Books, so the choice seemed obvious.

Daniel Woodrell is that terrible thing known as a "writer's writer," which means that his work is amazing and under-promoted. At last year's festival, I saw one author I admire almost lose her breath -- I'm not exaggerating -- when she shook Woodrell's hand, and saw other brilliant writers gibber and stumble in their efforts to tell Mr. Woodrell how much they love his work.

At last year's festival I had heard of Daniel Woodrell, of course, but hadn't read him. The combined recommendations of Reed Farrel Coleman, Jim Fusilli, Tod Goldberg, Laura Lippman and Peter Spiegelman convinced me to buy this book, and I read it on the flight home.

If you haven't read this book, you might consider going to buy it now, instead of reading further.

Sixteen-year-old Ree Dolly takes care of her two younger brothers and her near-catatonic mother in a ramshackle house in the Ozarks. Her ne'er-do-well father disappears and doesn't come back -- and then a sheriff's deputy shows up to say that their house is bond for a court date her father needs to keep, or else they'll lose their home. Ree sets out to find her father, asking dangerous questions of people who'll do anything required to keep others out of their business, and hold grudges dating back generations.

In fewer than 200 pages, WINTER'S BONE gives us a whole world in Ree's hopes, dreams, sorrows, humiliations, and unlikely -- but hard-earned -- triumph. It's a quiet, powerful novel that is perfect and deadly as an ice crystal.

This weekend's Festival of Books was a good time, though much too hot, even by LA standards. I bought a few books, met a few people, and saw some old friends. Didn't have time to see everyone I wanted to see, didn't have money to buy everything I wanted to buy, but what kind of world would it be if we didn't have things to wish for?


Karen Olson said...

I absolutely loved WINTER'S BONE, and I, too, read it on the recommendation of Peter Spiegelman and Reed Coleman.

Another author who's on par with him, as a "writer's writer" is Stewart O'Nan, who's been writing for years and I've just discovered him.

AnswerGirl said...

Good call on Stewart O'Nan -- I loved his book THE CIRCUS FIRE (about your neighboring town), and need to read more of his work.

Linda Brown said...

When Peter and Reed told me that Woodrell is a "writer's writer," I took it to mean that only writers could truly appreciate his work. And I was somewat offended.

Peter explained to me that, no, he meant that writers want to write like Woodrell.

I have a wonderful photo of Laura with Woodrell at the Festival -- she's just grinning and glowing. And one of Peter looking up at Woodrell with a complete and utter "fanboy" expression on his face.


p.s. it was great having you here, Clair -- and that black raspberry jam is absolutely, positively one of the best hostess gifts I've ever gotten. Can't wait to try the cereal!

AnswerGirl said...

Dizzy was excited to smell the cats on my suitcase, but baffled when I unpacked and he found no cats inside. He says they should come home with me next time.