Friday book review
This week's book is Bloodroot, by Amy Greene.
The peaceful cover of this novel betrays the haunting and terrifying stories inside. This book is a long and drawn out tale of a young woman growing up under terrible circumstances on fictional Bloodroot mountain in the Appalachians. I'd like to say that I enjoyed this book, because at first stop it seems like a good story. But after thinking about it, I have to say that I can't really appreciate this novel. Each character, (and there are plenty, at times I felt like I couldn't keep track of all of them) is sadder than the last. And there are a few that I wonder why they are included in the story at all. The Pulitzer winning vision quest hippie couple? They seemed like an afterthought to me. And one large section of the book is told through the eyes of Doug Cotter, a character we never meet again except for one quick sentence in the epilogue. That seemed very strange to me.
The story revolves around a young woman Myra, and each character's purpose is simply to tell the story of her. Again, I was left feeling hollow, because it was difficult to see why she was so fascinating to begin with, other than her blue eyes, which are remarked on constantly. It's almost as if she is growing up in a place where no one has ever seen blue eyes before. At any rate, her story is sad, everyone makes terrible choices and repeats mistakes made generation after generation. At one point I really started to think I was just reading a book about a few ignorant redneck families, and wondering why on earth should I care what happens to any of them.
The book has a slight mystery about halfway through regarding missing people and bastard children trying to find their families, but this is only in the convoluted way the story is told, not because there is actually any real mystery. Since the book is narrated through several people, you only see the story begin to take shape as the characters tell what they know. It's tedious at times, especially in the beginning, but by the end is moving fairly quickly.
All in all I'd have to give this book just an "eh." I grew up in the deep south and reading about the problems of crazy poor white folks just doesn't do much for me. Supposedly by the end the progeny of all of these lunatics ended up doing all right for themselves, by having a baby and being a decent mother (the girl's fate I guess) and becoming a famous writer (the boy's fate) which is a shocker considering the grammar and education of these kids was dismal. And in the end, the redemption of the most evil character in the book is wholly unbelievable to me, not to mention unfair.
If anything, this book shows a level of disrespect for the ways and people in this part of the country. I find it very hard to believe that all of this pain and suffering would take place in such a small town, and not one neighbor, family member, or community member would reach out to them. (other than to hurt them further, which happens again and again) The only people who are able to turn out okay are the one's that leave. And our beloved Myra ends up locked up, broken and sad, while the guy that put her there is totally off the hook? It's just all very confusing. Supposedly the author paints an intriguing portrait of the Appalachian landscape, but by the end it seems tainted and cursed - I really question the author's love of the place.