Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Review: Bloodroot

Summary: Myra Lamb is a wild girl with mysterious, haint blue eyes who grows up on remote Bloodroot Mountain. Her grandmother, Byrdie, protects her fiercely and passes down “the touch” that bewitches people and animals alike. But when John Odom tries to tame Myra, it sparks a shocking disaster, ripping lives apart. Bloodroot is the dark and riveting story of the legacies—of magic and madness, faith and secrets, passion and loss—that haunt one family across the generations. -- Vintage

I have been wanting to read BLOODROOT by Amy Greene for months after I read a raving review in one of my go-to sources for books - Entertainment Weekly. When I realized that the book was available in paperback and I still hadn't read it, I decided that it was time to select it for book club. That way, I'd have to read it... pitiful, but true. There are just so many good books out there and so little time. I know you know what I mean.

I have to admit that I didn't exactly love BLOODROOT, but it definitely made for an excellent book club discussion. In fact, I ended up appreciating the novel a lot more after I talked about it with my friends for a few hours. It's not that I didn't enjoy the book, because I did. In fact, BLOODROOT is extremely well written. It's just that my expectations were so darn high -- blame those critics. And, I had just finished reading an amazing book which really spoke to me! I have a feeling if I had read BLOODROOT at almost any other time, I might have been blown away by this powerful story.

BLOODROOT tells the story of three generations of very unique women who live in Appalachia. It demonstrates the love between the generations as well as the struggles this family endured. The novel is quite ambitious and spans time from the Great Depression to present day. It explores family love, especially between mothers and daughters, as well as magic, secrets and loss. I found it to be a difficult read at times because of the subject matter -- how much heartache can one family face? However, it was also ultimately a story about hope.

What I found so special about BLOODROOT is that while I definitely consider it literary fiction, it also had an interesting story. (I don't always find that to be the case.) The characters were fascinating and so well developed and I was intrigued by each of their stories. I appreciated how the author incorporated some elements of magic into this story as well as the power that possible curses had on a few of the characters. All in all, BLOODROOT was an extremely good novel (and some have even say excellent), and I feel as if I should have loved it. However, I think it's probably more accurate to say that I appreciated the novel rather than loved it. Does that make sense?

One thing I found very special about BLOODROOT was how Ms. Greene told the story. She used a variety of narrators -- six very different people -- including the three generations of women. I was very impressed with how well she captured the voice of each narrator and how complex all six individuals were. The transitions between the characters' stories were seamless -- I'm sure this was especially difficult with so many different characters and voices. In addition, I loved how the author wove the many themes and symbols throughout all six of the characters' stories. BLOODROOT was truly a beautifully written novel.

As I mentioned before, BLOODROOT was an awesome discussion book (if I do say so myself.) There is a reader's guide available with 23 thought-provoking questions. Really, there are way more than 23 since multiple questions are included on each question. My group had already discussed the book for awhile before looking at the questions, so we decided to pick and choose which questions worked for us. However, all of the questions are excellent and are guaranteed to generate some heavy discussion. Some of the topics that you might want to explore include family, loss, parenting, mental illness, addiction, loyalty, magic, secrets, healing, gifts, redemption, and the symbolism of the bloodroot flower. In fact, there is a great deal of symbolism in this story which my group found especially interesting.

Just a little aside: One girl in my book club alternated between a hard copy and the audio of BLOODROOT. She absolutely loved the audio version which was narrated by six different people. Personally, I think her experience of hearing these voices brought the book to the next level for her. She definitely had some interesting insight into the novel -- maybe because of listening to the story rather than reading it?

If you enjoy literary fiction and are looking for a very good book club pick, then I highly recommend BLOODROOT. I'm not sure it was my favorite book of 2011, but it is memorable and one that I appreciated a great deal.

Thanks to the publisher for sending a review copy of this novel.


bermudaonion said...

I really enjoy books set in Appalachia, so I have a feeling I'd like this book a lot. I'm glad to see it created a great discussion.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

We had an interesting discussion at my book club last night on what happens when you don't like a book if you read it, but like it if you listen to it, and if that means it's actually a good book, or the actors were good. We didn't resolve it!

Anonymous said...

I tend to truly love an Appalachian setting. This sounds like one that could really capture me.

Sandy Nawrot said...

No, I don't know that I would call it excellent, but I did very much like it. Your friend was right, the audio was excellent, but so was the writing and the characterization. (So to answer Jill, I think in this case the narrators just enhanced an already great read.) These people came alive. On the downside, the story was pretty dour overall. Probably realistic, but still.