Saturday, October 24, 2009

Saturday Snippet: Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell

Winter’s Bone is a coming of age story concerning sixteen year old Ree’s attempt to track down her no-good father in order to save her family’s beat-up house from possession by a bail bond company (my review here). Beautifully told, Daniel Woodrell expertly captures the sense of place and clannish familial social relations of the rural Ozarks of Missouri. In the following passage, Ree turns to her jailbird uncle for help, only to be turned down – Woodrell capturing the casual violence and minor politics of family ties.

Teardrop raised his hand and drew it back to smack her and let fly but diverted the smacking hand inches from Ree’s face to the nut bowl. His fingers dove rattling into the nuts, beneath the silver pistol, and lifted it from the lazy Susan. He bounced the weapon on his flat palm as though judging the weight with his hand for a scale, sighed, then ran a finger gently along the barrel to brush away grains of salt.

“Don’t you, nor nobody else, neither, ever go down around Hawkfall askin’ them people shit about stuff they ain’t offerin’ to talk about. That’s a real good way to end up et by hogs, or wishin’ you was. You ain’t no silly-assed town girl. You know better’n that foolishness.’

‘But we’re all related, ain’t we?’

‘Our relations get watered kinda thin between this valley here and Hawkfall. It’s better’n bein’ a foreigner or town people, but it ain’t nowhere near the same as bein’ from Hawkfall.’

Victoria said, ‘You know all those people down there, Teardrop. You could ask.’

‘Shut up.’

‘I just mean, none of them’s goin’ to be in a great big hurry to tangle with you, neither. If Jessup’s over there, Ree needs to see him. Bad.’

‘I said shut up once already, with my mouth.’

Ree felt bogged and forlorn, doomed to a spreading swamp of hateful obligations. Therewould be no ready fix or answer or help. She felt like crying but wouldn’t. She could be beat with a garden rake and never cry and had proved that twice before Mamaw saw an unsmiling angel pointing from the treetops at dusk and quit the bottle. She would never cry where the tears might be seen and counted against her. ‘Jesus-fuckin’-Christ. Dad’s your only little brother!’

‘You think I forgot that?’ He grabbed the clip and slammed it into the pistol, then ejected it and tossed pistol and clip back into the nut bowl. He made a fist with his right hand and rubbed it with his left. ‘Jessup’n me run together for nigh on forty years – but I don’t know where he’s at, and I ain’t goin’ to go around askin’ after him, neither.’

Ree knew better than to say another word, but was going to anyhow, when Victoria grabbed her hand and held it, squeezed, then said, ‘Now, when is it you was tellin’ me you’ll be old enough to join the army?’

Definitely on my list of best reads for this year and an author whose back-catalogue I'm looking forward to catching up with.


Patti said...

Absolutely my favorite book of 2008. He is a genius.

Rob Kitchin said...

Patti. I only managed to get to a couple of bookshops in the U.S., admittedly in airports or secondhand. The three authors whose books I wanted to pick up were Daniel Woodrell's, Joe Lansdale's and Megan Abbott's. I didn't manage to find any of them and I've had no joy whilst in Ireland either, so I'll be ordering them in. I'm surprised I'd never heard of Woodrell until you recommended him - thanks.