Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell

4/5 stars.
Paperback, 224 pages.
Read from August 26 to 28, 2014.

Winter’s Bone was a delicate surprise. This book is so expressive and the narrative reads like a beautiful and ardent poem. I read this passage at least three times because it read so wonderfully:

“Ree needed often to inject herself with pleasant sounds, stab those sounds past the constant screeching, squalling hubbub regular life raised inside her spirit, pole the soothing sounds past that racket and down deep where her jittering soul paced on a stone slab in a gray room, agitated and endlessly provoked but yearning to hear something that might bring a moment’s rest.” p.10

Ree is a tough and resilient teenager of sixteen. She has had to take care of her two brothers and her mentally ill mother as her father has been involved with cooking up crystal meth and has recently skipped bail, a practice that is being taken up by a few farmers in the Ozark area. Unfortunately for Ree, her father is missing and if he doesn’t make his court date they will lose their home. Determined to save her home, Ree starts looking for her father but she is finding out that there aren’t too many people in town, even from her own extended family, who are willing to assist her. There is a secret that is being kept from her in regards to her father and Ree will do whatever it takes to find out what that is despite what danger she may find herself in.

What makes this story remarkable isn’t the plot, as it’s fairly straight forward, but the character work. It’s absolutely impeccable. You feel for Ree but she is so remarkably tough. Having practically parented herself and raised both her brothers she is wise beyond her years and through Ree you start to get an idea of what her family is like and and see just how small the town is that she lives in. Woodrell is so masterful with his words, the book is short, yet you feel that you know so much about Ree. While the book is a bit dark, you find yourself just as determined as Ree so you never feel dismayed, enough though there are some difficult moments in the book.

I think that anyone could read this book, it’s just executed so well. I’ve heard mixed reviews on the movie but I haven’t actually seen it myself. I could see that the plot line might not be enticing enough on screen, isn’t that the beauty of a book? However, now that I’ve read the book, I will give the movie a go.

I’d say this is one of my favourite books of 2014 so far as it’s not very often you find a book that is this whole and well done. I’d recommend this novel to anyone looking for something intriguing, dark and beautiful.

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Filed under 4 Star, Read 2014

In Transit by Mavis Gallant

3/5 stars.
Read from July 22 to August 13, 2014.
Paperback, 199 pages.

Mavis Gallant was highly recommended to me from a good friend of mine and I finally took the time to follow-up in this recommendation. Mavis is a talented writer but I don’t think her writing it for everybody.

While born in Canada, Mavis actually spent most of her life in France, which is extremely apparent in this collection of stories. Her writing felt very European as every story in this book was set somewhere in Europe and the tone and the personality of the writing and characters had a very European feel. If I had not know that Mavis was Canadian I would have presumed that she was a European, writing about Europeans, for Europeans, and maybe the latter of the two are true. However, this could also be because the stories seemed to reflect a period of time around the 1950s, a time frame that I found difficult to relate to in her writing, so her characters and their woes felt very foreign to me.

What I was able to appreciate in her work is how well the theme of being ‘in transit’ is used in each individual story. All of the characters in this collaboration of short stories is going through a phase of change, revelation, growth or progress in their personal lives. Mavis details the struggles, and often the options that the characters have in order to proceed through the phase of change that they’re faced with, but every story ends right before the pinnacle of the characters decision. I found this jarring at first but by the time I finished the book I saw how fitting it really was.

While I wasn’t overly enthralled with this collection I haven’t given up on Mavis yet. I think that her writing is good and it reminds me of Hemingway, which I have a love/hate relationship with. So like Hemingway, I’d like to read more of her work to get a better feel for her.  Overall I would recommend this book to anyone who has also recently found themselves ‘in transit’.

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Filed under 3 Star, Canadian, Read 2014, Short Story

Canada-Reads 2014

Canada Reads 2014

I know, this post has been a long time coming as it took longer than I anticipated to read the book nominations for this year but here we are! My final post on the Canada Reads 2014 series.

Overall, the selections this year were extremely diverse; I appreciated their individuality and the talent displayed by each author. I am going to keep this post short by ranking the books in order of my preference. I must say, ranking these was very difficult! Each will link back to my full reviews on each of the books. So without further ado:

1) Annabel by Kathleen Winter

2) The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

3) The Orenda by Joseph Boyden

4) Cockroach by Rawi Hage

5) Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan

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Filed under Canada-Reads 2014, Canadian, Lists