At last, Christmas time is upon us and Berlin has given us its first crispy-cold days. What better time to stay in altogether with a dark American thriller depicting the icy hinterland of Missouri? Daniel Woodrell's "Winter's Bone" from 2006 is the story of a family struggling to survive and makes your blood freeze in more than one sense.
When her father Jessup disappears like he has done many times before, it is up to sixteen-year old Ree Dolly to take care of her mentally ill mother and two younger brothers. They live in the Rathlin Valley of Missouri, in the harsh environment of the Ozark Mountains. The family clan has been involved in crime for many generations and Ree has learnt not to ask too many questions. But then the police are on their doorstep: her father has skipped bail for charges of running a meth lab. Ree is confronted with the overwhelming task to find him – dead or alive – within a week's time. If not, her family will lose their home and with it everything they own.
"Winter's Bone" seems to be fuelled with clichés of Southern life and poverty at first glance: the Dolly clan is surrounded by the familiar images of drugs, violence and crime. But its central character elevates it – making this novel both an unusual and exciting coming-of-age story. Ree grows with the challenge that is given to her and eventually excels herself – much to her own surprise. The book is a reminder of what hidden powers slumber deep within each one of us – whether in rural and lonely Missouri or cold and busy Berlin.