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Monday, April 12, 2010

Bloodroot: Tragic Family, Brilliant Novel

Don't be surprised if you see Amy Greene's Bloodroot make its way onto several of the literary prize short lists later this year. It's that good; a wonderfully engrossing story by a debut novelist who writes with amazing clarity, emotion, authenticity and beauty.

Bloodroot is a plant that has the power both to cure or kill; it's the central symbol throughout a novel rich with dichotomy (love and hate, life and death). Bloodroot is also the name of the mountain in dirt-poor East Tennessee where the novel takes place. Much like the Mississippi River in Mark Twain's works, Bloodroot Mountain stands as both the setting for the story and a "thing" with which the novel's characters have a real, tangible relationship. The mountain itself is a character.

These tragic characters, all with an inseparable connection to Bloodroot, take turns telling this story about the importance of family heritage and the dangers of fate. Blue-eyed, beautiful Myra Lamb is the central character. She is her family's hope for breaking a century-old curse. But Myra herself seems also to be cursed, and marries an abusive jerk who does everything he can to sever her roots and destroy her sense of self. Her only saving grace is her hope of one day returning home to Bloodroot. "You might leave one day," Myra says, "but your blood will whisper to you."

Bursting with symbolism and Biblical allusions, but maintaining a wonderful sense of "country mysticism" and superstition, this novel is about as literary as literary gets. That's not to say the book is difficult — it's actually one of the most brilliant types of literary novels: Even if you don't get all of it, you're still totally engaged in the story and the writing, because the story stands strongly on its own merit and the writing is so fantastic. Taking time to think through and understand the "literary adornments" only adds to the enjoyment of the novel.

I'm not in a book club, but if you are, this would be a fantastic novel. It's one that begs to be discussed, and therefore, savored.

15 comments:

  1. Sold! I'm putting in a request for this at the library right now. Great review!

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  2. This sounds really good, Greg. It goes on the TBR/convince the book club list...

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  3. This sounds great. I am putting it on my must reads list. You did a great review, as always.

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  4. Ditto to everything you said! I'm glad you enjoyed it, and I was curious how a male would interpret the book. I really do think this one will be required reading some day in the future...

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  5. I'm definitely going to take your recommendation and read this one. Like you said, this is absolutely the best kind of literary literary. :-) Thanks for the awesome review!

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  6. Hello! Just popping in to say that I admire your blog and have given you an award!

    Check it out here:
    http://subtlemelodrama.blogspot.com/2010/04/teaser-tuesday-april-13-and-some-honest.html

    x

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  7. Hello Greg: I enjoy your intelligent and readable posts and reviews, so I'm giving you the Beautiful Blogger and Honest Scrap awards. Book Quoter honored me and I'm passing it on to you.

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  8. Nice review. I have to compile a list of books to read after the top 100. I have to explore your site more and check out the reviews. Too many books, too many good reviews!! How many books have you reviewed and which ones were your favs?

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  9. I am going to check out this book. I did like Shadow of the Wind; I've read the Hornet's nest (ordered from the UK) but I will wait on my comments until you read it.
    I like your blog and will be back.

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  10. Thank you everyone for your comments - and very sorry for the lack of personal responses. Glad to see so many of you are interested in checking out the book - it really is fantastic!

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  11. Wow--that sounds awesome, especially since I live in East TN! It's on my TBR list now, thanks.

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  12. Wow, I haven't heard of this one but it sounds really interesting. Thanks for the review.

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  13. +JMJ+

    Of late, I've been pondering what it means to have one's roots so deeply in a place that one feels bound to its landscape--though I've mostly been thinking of New York. Bloodroot sounds like a great variation on the same theme; and I know I could use a new setting!

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  14. Actually War and Peace--what I can remember from the oh so distant past when I was a much more adventurous reader--is worth a look. Very perceptive about what goes through our minds when we are faced with life and death situations.

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  15. This was one of my favorite books of the year! Great review!

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