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Bloodroot (Vintage Contemporaries) by Amy…

Bloodroot (Vintage Contemporaries) (edition 2011)

by Amy Greene

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5894616,710 (3.83)59
Title:Bloodroot (Vintage Contemporaries)
Authors:Amy Greene
Info:Vintage (2011), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 384 pages
Collections:Your library, Favorites
Tags:read 2013

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Bloodroot by Amy Greene

  1. 00
    Evidence of Things Unseen by Marianne Wiggins (tangledthread)
    tangledthread: Part of the setting for Evidence is also Tennessee. Characterizations and writing style are similar.

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Hard to believe that people lived like that in the not so distant past. Best part of the book was the last quarter when she brought all the story together. When you learn why people did what they did. It really was just normal people trying to make their way through life. ( )
  Jodeneg | Oct 23, 2015 |
Hard to believe that people lived like that in the not so distant past. Best part of the book was the last quarter when she brought all the story together. When you learn why people did what they did. It really was just normal people trying to make their way through life. ( )
  Jodeneg | Oct 23, 2015 |
3.5 stars: Honestly, I'm not really sure what to say. Overall, it was a good read. Great even - with one caveat. It's depressing.

The novel is set in the Appalachian mountains and tells the story of Myra Odom. It threw me at first because there are no chapters. The book is divided into three parts and an epilogue. The first part switches back and forth between Myra's grandmother, Birdie, and a childhood friend, Doug. The second is voiced by her twins, Johnny & Laura. The third belongs to Myra herself, and the epilogue ... well, I won't spoil it just in case you decide to give the book a try.

The voices are strong and I was quickly sucked into the story. The dialect might be jarring to some, but I found it easy to fall into having a grandmother who's way of speaking is fairly similar. Greene is undoubtedly a talented writer. She brings Bloodroot mountain to such rich life that I felt like I was right there with her characters.

And that's not always a good thing.

Touted as a story about ""the legacies - of magic and madness, faith and secrets, passion and heartbreak - that haunt one family in Appalachia from the Great Depression to today"" I was really hoping for more magic and less madness.

The depressing truth is that this is a story about a rural family living in abject poverty, and the ills that go along with such destitution: abuse, superstition, and mental illness. Yet intertwined through it all is the power of the human spirit and the will to survive despite nearly insurmountable odds. And survive they do. There are moments of true beauty and happiness despite the bleakness of their meager existence. Or perhaps it's the dismal backdrop that makes those moments shine all the brighter? Whatever the reason, it worked. She kept me interested and reading, kept me wanting to know how the story would end even when I thought it couldn't possibly be a happy ending.

( )
  kjpmcgee | Sep 9, 2015 |
I lost a lot of sleep reading this book. ( )
  lunule | Aug 22, 2014 |
Amy has a way with the written word, and I wouldn't have it any other way. She took me back, and in some ways taught me many things I hadn't thought were so KEY to people's personalities, but they are. At first, I was a little confused, but the second section filled in all the puzzle pieces. Amy tied everything so well together at the end, I'll have to read it again to find anything that may or may not make sense, and it would have to be based on my personal knowledge of that era, the environment in that area, and my own family. That's just it. The Odoms make me think of my own family. That, in itself, is very creepy. ( )
  mreed61 | Aug 10, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 46 (next | show all)
In unadorned but assured prose, Greene then takes her readers to the hard­scrabble world of foster homes and juvenile detention centers, of life in a blue-collar Appalachian town.
Greene’s novel is undeniably appealing, in the way its weird swirl of Southern Gothic and bleak domestic drama keeps the pages turning. But the overall impression the novel leaves is lacking. Greene is apparently unable to truly confront some of the novel’s darker moments, and is more interested in Appalachia as a sort of mystical Shangri-la.
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Myra looks like her mama, but prettier because of her daddy mixed in.
Myra stared after her for a long time. Like Daddy, she was smittten. But I knew she loved Wild Rose for a different reason than Daddy did. Daddy loved her because she was something different than he was. Myra loved Wild Rose because they were the same. I guess it doesn’t matter why, but both of them loved her better than they loved me.
If I mark time, it's by their birthdays. Not the exact date, because I forget sometimes. But I can tell by the weather, how it smells outside and what's growing out of the ground. One day I'll wake up and there's a charge in the air and I'll know it's the anniversary of their birth.
“Nature never did betray the heart that loved her.” {Wordsworth, Tintern Abbey}
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0307269868, Hardcover)

Amazon Best Books of the Month, January 2010: Bloodroot is that rare sort of family saga that feels intimate instead of epic. Set in Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains, it’s told largely in tandem voices that keep watchful eyes on Myra Lamb. She is a child of the mountain, tied to the land in ways that mystify and enchant those around her. There’s magic to Myra--perhaps because she has the remarkable blue eyes foretold by a nearly-forgotten family curse--but little fantasy to her life. Bloodroot is as much about the Lambs as it is about a place, one that becomes ever more vivid as generations form, break free, and knit back together. Its characters speak plainly but true, they are resilient and flawed and beautiful, and there's a near-instant empathy in reading their stories, which--even in their most visceral moments--are alluring and wonderful. --Anne Bartholomew

A Q&A with Amy Greene

Question: You’ve lived all your life in East Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains, a part of the country you depict vividly in Bloodroot. How did you imbue a familiar place with such detail and even magic? What was it like to put the language you’d heard all your life into words on the page, as dialogue?

Amy Greene: There is, I think, an intimacy with the landscape that comes with living here. Most of my childhood was spent outdoors, a part of my experience that emerges naturally in my writing. Bringing the language I’ve heard all my life to the page also came easily. It was instinctive to appropriate the voices of my family, friends and neighbors for the characters I was exploring in Bloodroot. The challenge was actually in dialing back the language once I had poured it onto the page, making it accessible to people who aren’t familiar with these expressions and colloquialisms.

Question: Six different character--men and women, old and young--narrate Bloodroot. Which characters or voices came to you first? Who was the most difficult to write, and who was the easiest? Did you have any particular people in your own life in mind when you came up with these characters originally? How did you invent the totally unique Ford Hendrix?

Amy Greene: I envisioned Johnny and Laura first, not as children but as young adults. I considered writing a short story about them, but realized I wanted to know more than I could learn about their lives within a few pages. I found myself creating a past for them, going back in time before their birth to discover what had brought them to such a dark place. Their great-grandmother, Byrdie, was the easiest character to write. She hasn’t changed much since the first draft of Bloodroot, probably because I’ve been surrounded and raised by women like her, my mom and my aunts and the ladies I went to church with. I was interested in exploring, through Byrdie, the stories I’d heard from them about life in Appalachia during the Depression. John Odom was hardest to write. It was difficult to show all his dimensions and his conflicting emotions--to portray him not just as a villain but also as a tortured soul. I struggled to make it believable that, at least in his own mind, it was possible for John to love Myra and at the same time, to hurt her. With Ford, I wanted Johnny to have the father figure he was searching for, but the first character I created to fit that role became uninspiring to me. I knew he wasn’t working, so I scrapped what I had written and began to imagine a character I wouldn’t grow tired of, one who would intrigue Johnny and me both enough to follow him a long way. The intriguing figure I ended up with was Ford Hendrix.

Question: Bloodroot takes place across four generations, from the Great Depression to the present-day. At times there’s a sociological aspect to your depiction of life in Appalachia--the poverty some families struggle with for years, the development of the land. But in some ways the story you’ve told seems out of time--we don’t see politics or computers, for instance. Did you consciously weave social issues into the novel? How isolated is this area of the country, and how has that changed over time? To your mind, what role does history and the passage of time play in this family story?

Amy Greene: I didn’t think about "sociology," especially not at first. I concentrated primarily on storytelling, and building the lives of the characters. For the most part, I kept the wider world out of the picture, partly to preserve the dreamlike quality I wanted to achieve with the writing, and also to portray the sense of isolation that comes with living in Appalachia. Often the passage of time and what’s going on outside the mountains has little impact on life here. People still grow and can their own food, get their water from wells and springs, use wood and coal for heat. There’s a feeling of separateness from the rest of the country. But as I wrote deeper into the characters, the outside world began seeping into their stories with the progression of time. In successive drafts I was able to add another layer to Bloodroot by expanding those moments already present in the narrative that addressed social issues, such as the poverty that persists in parts of Appalachia. Although the quality of life has improved here over the last few decades, there are still areas where lack of education, job training, and access to public services makes life difficult. I also thought about the possibility of hopelessness as a kind of legacy, generation after generation accepting destitution as their lot in life because it’s all they’ve ever known. But while history and the passage of time do play important roles in this story, the familial bond of the characters mattered more to me. It transcends the changing world around them--the landscape changes, their circumstances change, people move in and out of their lives. But their blood ties are permanent.

Question: Magic and mysticism run throughout the book--there are "granny women" who are like witches; spells and potions, including a visceral scene where a young woman swallows a chicken heart to make a man fall in love with her; and a special connection with animals, called "the touch," that is passed down in the family. How did these supernatural elements make their way into a story that often feels very true-to-life? Growing up, had you heard any similar legends? Does this type of folk magic--healing or curses or anything else--still hold weight for people?

Amy Greene: I’ve always seen Appalachia as a magical place. I grew up hearing stories of haints and fortunetellers and curses. One of my favorite scenes in Bloodroot to write, where Clifford blows healing wind down Byrdie’s throat, is based on a story my dad tells of his mother taking his baby sister to a neighbor man who cured her thrush the same way. My mom had an aunt who took off her warts by rubbing a stone in a circle around each one and then throwing the stones away. This kind of folk magic still holds weight here because, for whatever reason, people see tangible results from the practice of it. The thrush clears up, the warts fall off, and so they keep believing.

(Photo © Amy Smotherman Burgess)

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:58:13 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Myra Lamb of Bloodroot Mountain has troubling "haint" blue eyes and a grandma whose touch charms people and animals alike. When their neighbor John Odom tries to tame Myra, he meets a with shocking, violent disaster.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 3 descriptions

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