Bloodroot by Amy Greene
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Bloodroot is a novel that needs some tightening, but tells an interesting story. The best part of the novel is the feel for life among the poor in backwoods Tennessee. I listened to the audio version, done with six narrators who were all excellent. Some of that success is to their credit. The author knows the culture well and created Byrdie, who is a fascinating and loveable character.
The book is structured in three parts which center around Myra Lamb and her family. It is written in first person with each part having two narrators, Part one covers the time when Myra is a teenager living with Byrdie, her grandmother. Doug Cotter, one of her neighbors, spends many hours with her on the mountain where they live. He and his brother, Mark, have both fallen in love with her, but Myra's interest lies elsewhere.
Part two jumps forward in time and centers on Myra's twin children, John and Laura. Part three moves back in time to cover the period between one and two. I suppose Amy Greene chose to arrange the novel this way because it's mainly Myra's story and wouldn't have worked well if her part was effectively over when the book still had a third to go. But I believe Greene would have been better off dropping most of part two or just including the highlights in a few reflections toward the end of the novel. There were some interesting sections of part two, but most of it didn't add to Myra's story. There were also some loose ends that didn't get resolved along with a large number that waited until the epilogue to get their resolution.
I noticed in some of the other reviews that a few readers objected to a lack of characters they could care about. I didn't agree with that comment. Although most of them had issues, there were some wonderful ones, such as Byrdie. As the story progressed it became centered on an abusive relationship which spiraled down as the novel moved forward. This aspect was hard to read because it was very well written. Overall, the story held my interest and presented ideas I thought about after I was done.
Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions
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