Winter's Bone is bitter and loving, heartwarming and cold, terrifying and uplifting. I liked it and I hated it.
Ree Dolly is a strong woman. At sixteen, she is already the head of the household, unceremoniously tasked with the care of her two young brothers and a near-catatonic mother. Deep in the Ozarks, she has learned at a young age what it takes to survive in near poverty. After leaving school to run the family, she has had enough hardship in her sixteen years. And now that her father has run off - again - she's the closest thing to an adult figure.
On a crisp morning, the sheriff appears at the door with sobering news. At the time of her father's last arrest for the manufacture of crystal meth, he posted bail and fled. His court date is approaching, and if he doesn't show, the family is going to lose their home. It seems that he put up the house as collateral, with apparently no thought of what this would mean for his family.
Residents of the Ozarks are all distantly related, and though being related by blood is supposed to "mean something," Ree discovers that there are many secrets that need to remain hidden.
Ree embarks on a dangerous journey to locate her father, entering areas in which she is violently not welcome. She's told to mind her own business, and slowly comes to terms with the fact that her father may no longer be alive. Caring less about her father's fate than the livelihood of her mother and brothers, she encounters the worst sides of the human spirit and the antithesis of family. While some show her kindness, Ree is deemed dangerous and her search soon escalates into a fight for the truth. And survival.
While bleak, Winter's Bone still manages to have hope. The reader is never sure of Ree's fate, and suffers with her. Daniel Woodrell has delivered a powerful novel that keeps the reader engaged, always wanting to learn more, no matter how painful and horrible.