Winter’s Bone is as serious as a snakebite, with a plot that seems tight enough to fit on the label of a package of chew ... Young Ree Dolly allows Woodrell to glide this novel seamlessly from violence to innocence. She is hard-boiled. She is harsh. She can be sweet ...structured like a Philip Marlowe story in which, for each clue the dick digs up, he returns to his office to mull things over with a shot of scotch ... The whole Ozark milieu is rendered so completely and expertly that Woodrell should consider changing the settings of his future novels, just as Cormac McCarthy gave up Tennessee for Mexico ... His Old Testament prose and blunt vision have a chilly timelessness that suggests this novel will speak to readers as long as there are readers, and as long as violence is practiced more often than hope or language.
Ree Dolly, the heroine of Daniel Woodrell's luminous new novel, is 'brunette and sixteen, with milk skin and abrupt green eyes ... [standing] tall in combat boots, scarce at the waist but plenty through the arms and shoulders, a body made for loping after needs' ... Ree's experiences with these and other figures are brutal and often gruesome, and the story's end is an eerie surprise ... Winter's Bone is compact, atmospheric and deeply felt, drenched in the sights, sounds and smells of the author's native Ozarks ...tap a ferocious, ancient manner of storytelling, shrewdly combining a poet's vocabulary with the vivid, old-fashioned vernacular of the backwoods. They're forces of nature.
If you're going to read Winter's Bone, it's best to plan on reading it twice –– once to get the feel of the thing and once to figure out who is who, who's got the power here and what opaque and arcane rules hold this world together ... In the hands of a conventionally educated urban author, these characterizations would seem intolerably condescending and elitist...not taking cheap shots; he's reporting life as he sees it ... The action plays out like an old-fashioned, hard-boiled novel ... Winter's Bone revolves around questions of grit, courage, authenticity, a willingness to face the pure physical unpleasantness of the way things are ... Woodrell simply shows us a world, the raw meat of it. If we can't stomach his reality, it's our problem, not his.
...continues with Winter's Bone, a characteristically short novel of tremendous and, at times, ferocious power. Words such as 'bleak' and 'beautiful' and 'heartbreaking' spring to mind ... Everything about Ree's quest is utterly compelling; everything evoked about the landscape and its people convinces completely ... Woodrell's language fascinates and intrigues; he manages to make this sort of American-English seem aeons old, ancient... Winter's Bone pulses between innocence's triumph and annihilation; it recognises that there is 'a great foulness afoot in the world' but that we still walk among miracles and, despite the unexpectedly upbeat ending.
An Old Testament harshness and spareness indeed shadow this grim tale... It’s an odyssey rich with echoes of Inman’s journey in Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain, the homicidal poetry of Cormac McCarthy’s tense narratives (with random bits and snatches of Elmore Leonard and Harry Crews)... The truth both endangers Ree’s life and sets her free, in a coiled-spring narrative whose precisely honed prose vibrates with arresting descriptive phrases... Every bit as good as Woodrell’s icy The Death of Sweet Mister — in other words, about as good as it gets.
Woodrell flirts with — but doesn't succumb to — cliché in his eighth novel, a luminescent portrait of the poor and desperate South that drafts 16-year-old Ree Dolly, blessed with 'abrupt green eyes,' as its unlikely heroine ... At its best, the novel captures the near-religious criminal mania pervasive in rural communities steeped in drug culture. Woodrell's prose, lyrical as often as dialogic, creates an unwieldy but alluring narrative that allows him to draw moments of unexpected tenderness from predictable scripts.