Daniel Woodrell is an American author known for his novels set in the Missouri Ozarks. Born and raised in this area, he draws upon his childhood experiences to add authenticity to his fictional stories. The typical rural landscape of his works has led to the term “country noir” to describe the general atmosphere of a Woodrell novel.
His eighth book, Winter’s Bone, tells the story of Ree Dolly, a 16-year-old Ozark girl whose criminal father, Jessup, has mysteriously disappeared. A local police officer informs Ree that her father had put their house up for collateral and if he does not show up for his court date within a week, their land will be confiscated. Thus, Ree ventures to find Jessup as soon as possible, all the while the reader discovers the extreme poverty and crime that are ubiquitous in the town itself.
Winter’s Bone, like many of Woodrell’s other works, plays upon the seemingly primitive nature of the Ozarks. David Bowman of The New York Times describes the use of the “hillbilly landscape — its weather, its wilderness, its lack of culture and its primitive tongue” as “brilliantly played out.” Class struggle in rural America is a recurring theme in the protagonist’s life just as it was in the author’s life. As Woodrell told Dustin Atkinson of The Southeast Review, “class identification was the crucial defining factor” throughout his adolescence. The idea of leaving his impoverished home was a romantic prospect for Woodrell and others in his community growing up. As such, the desire for escape and success is one that characterizes many of Woodrell’s characters, including Ree Dolly.
In 2010, four years after the book’s publication, Winter’s Bone was adapted into a film of the same name, directed by Debra Granik and starring Jennifer Lawrence as Ree. It was ultimately nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role, Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role, and Best Writing for an Adapted Screenplay.