Winter’s Bone is a grim, yet touching, sparsely written tale of a young girl’s attempt to save her home. Ree Dolly is a high school student who has been supporting her mentally ill mother and two younger brothers in an area of the Ozarks that except for some modern-day conveniences doesn’t seem like it could be much different from it was a hundred years ago or more. One day the sheriff arrives to tell her that her father put their house and property up as collateral for his bail, and that if he doesn’t make his court date in a week, the family will lose their home. To Ree, this would mean a loss of all hope.
Ree sets out to find her father, whom she hasn’t seen in several months. Although almost everyone she visits is related to her in some way, most of the men are meth cookers, and her quest among the Ozark hollows is fraught with danger. Some of the women are even scarier than the men. Ree begins to feel that there is some greater mystery–that others know where her father is and aren’t telling. Initially resistant to her efforts, her terrifying Uncle Teardrop finally decides out of family loyalty to help her.
Woodrell’s prose is both lyrical and spare. You are rooting for Ree, her honest, uncorrupted spirit in stark contrast to the endemic criminality of the community.