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.