Friday, January 14, 2011
Book review: Bloodroot
I just finished "Bloodroot," by Amy Greene -- blowing through it in two sittings (admittedly during a couple of slow work shifts!) -- and I was very surprised at how good this is, considering it's apparently her debut novel. I heard some glowing things about it popping up here and there, but it's so unlike anything I ever read, it took me a while to get to it. But I'm glad I did.
I'm not going to waste a whole lot of time telling what the story's about, because you can find it in detail virtually anywhere, but it's an engaging family saga set in Tennessee's Smoky Mountains and centers around Myra Lamb, who has this mysterious effect on everyone around her. Growing in this mountain range is the bloodroot, a flower that produces a blood-red sap that has the power to both heal and destroy. Yes, there is much symbolism here, but some startling realism as well, amid the pain, poverty and primitive lives that are examined.
What I most like about this story is that it's one of those I've always been drawn to, where an intertwining group of characters progresses over decades -- and it is seamlessly woven through the years by the first-person accounts of these characters, which provides an authentic voice of an area and a people I know virtually nothing about. Although if you've seen "Winter's Bone," (which I really should have written up here at some point) even though that was set in the Ozarks, I found the two stories to have a similar tone.
One personal note: From my experience with this book, I'd recommend not reading ahead to see who helps tell this story, because I found it very cool to see who picks it up as I turn the pages -- this includes a perfectly written epilogue from a surprising character that emotionally and poignantly ties the story off with a, yes, satisfyingly unsatisfying bow ... if you will.
So maybe I'll add some book entries in the future, maybe not, but I felt this is worth a recommendation. It's really a mesmerizing story that tells of the power of home and the ability to rise above some of life's true horrors with love and strength of spirit -- while the lush, earthy descriptions and the haunting (or haunted?) fully developed characters give the story a tangible quality that is very much cinematic in scope and very much comes to life as you turn the pages.