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Bloodroot Hardcover – Deckle Edge, January 12, 2010


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This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (January 12, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307269868
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307269867
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.4 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (186 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #459,861 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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)


From Publishers Weekly

Despite a few vivid moments, this uneven debut, a four-generation Appalachian family epic, loses sight of the intriguing mythology it lays out early on. Though Byrdie Lamb inherited the mystical powers of the “granny women” of her grandmother's mountain village, she's failed to protect her family: daughter Clio runs away from Bloodroot Mountain at 17 to get married and is later killed, along with her husband, in a car accident, leaving their daughter, Myra, in Byrdie's care. And though Byrdie tries to raise Myra right, Myra falls under the spell of an abusive alcoholic. Her children, twins Laura and Johnny, grow up largely in fear, and eventually social workers remove them from their home. As adults, they return for different reasons: she for comfort, he for revenge. Narrated by several members of the Lamb-Odom clan, the narrative initially swirls around the mystery of Byrdie's powers, but as the story plays out, her gift (or, perhaps, curse) is unfortunately backgrounded by the violence of those who marry into the family and sow ruin. Greene has a sharp eye for combustible moments and a fine ear for dialect, but the follow-through doesn't do justice to the setup. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

More About the Author

Amy Greene was born and raised in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, where she lives with her husband and two children.

Customer Reviews

The characters weren't compelling for me and the story was just too jumpy.
M. Reynard
It's that good; a wonderfully engrossing story told by a debut novelist who writes with clarity, emotion, authenticity and beauty.
Gregory Zimmerman
I read only at bedtime and I found myself reading way too late into the night---I could hardly put the book down.
Joen Wolfrom

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

90 of 99 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Hendry VINE VOICE on January 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
One of the most enjoyable things about Amy Green's Bloodroot is that is it that rare novel that gets better as it goes along. While I admit that the first section of the novel is a bit slow at times and some of it seems extraneous, Greene pulls the disparate parts of the novel together at the end, but never too neatly, into a satisfying conclusion. The novel revolves around Myra, an Appalachian woman born into a slightly troubled, slightly magical, perhaps, family. The opening section of the novel is narrated by two people who love her, whom she has left--her grandmother and a neighbor, Doug, who has loved her as they have grown from childhood to young adulthood. Myra has left them both to marry a man who appears to be trouble. While the opening is a bit slow, the narrative slowly builds and draws the reader in, raising questions, some of them never truly answered about Myra and those in her life. This novel is quite an enjoyable read, ultimately compelling and a bit surprising. The characters are never of a type and develop in believably unpredicatble ways. I think Bloodroot would make an excellent choice for a book club. There is much to discuss--while the major questions are resolved for the reader, there is enough left for the readers imagination that I think would lead to a lively discussion. Enjoy!
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46 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Pasiphae on December 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The danger of Appalachian fiction is that the stories will become quaint, set as they are in a mountain world that exists like a magical and lost kingdom; isolated, unbelievably beautiful, dangerous and somehow enchanted. Bloodroot takes place partly in the mountains and partly in the world of foster homes, pool halls, cities and reform schools. That sense of Appalachia's isolation and enchantment runs like lifeblood or creekwater through this multi-generational tale of women who cannot be tamed.

The first section of the story is the most confusing, alternating between two narrators whose thankless job it is to set the stage for the mysterious story that will follow. By the time Byrdie Lamb and Douglas Cotter finish telling their stories, I was completely bewitched by the characters and the plot, but the second section, narrated by twins Johnny and Laura, is that much more powerful. The twins' story follows the dark currents of genetic inheritance, the curse of blood, how nature emerges despite any counteracting nurture.

The writing in this novel is stunning. I could smell, see, touch and taste the world of the characters, whether it was the green cool of the mountain or the dirt and rocks of a gravel yard. I could hear the scream of a baby rabbit or the scrabbling wings of a trapped bird. To have such a dark story told so beautifully makes for a wrenchingly painful tour-de-force that thankfully leaves the reader with the true possibility of redemption and hope.

Very highly recommended.
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. Baumann VINE VOICE on February 15, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Plot Summary: Passing back and forth among multiple points of view, this story is about rural families living in the mountains of Tennessee. The crux of it all revolves around Myra Lamb, a special girl who draws people in, which is both her blessing and curse. Tragedy strikes every generation of the Lamb family, who are either slightly magical or maniacal, depending on your point of view.

A few weeks back I made a vow to break my addiction for books that have `happily ever after' endings, and try to read some sad, but worthwhile stories. I would just like to state that with Bloodroot I've met my `sad' quota for a month or two at least. I was persuaded to try this book by a rave review in Entertainment Weekly magazine. I figured if the purveyors of popular culture liked it, then there's a good chance that I would too.

Some books like to save up the sadness, and spring it like a trap at the end. Bloodroot was different in that it was fairly sad at the beginning, middle, and end. Actually I take that back - the one ray of hope and sunshine came at the very end. As sad as it was, I didn't cry. Not once. I suppose I was too angry with the characters to express any maudlin sentiments. As I read story after story about these poor, ignorant people, I kept wondering where is that American grit we're so famous for? I kept waiting for someone to pull herself up out of the muck, but it's like they were all destined to fail.

The setting was vivid and lush, with beautiful descriptions. The speech rhythms got under my skin, and I found myself wanting to slip into the same patterns after spending all afternoon within the story. There is much to admire here, but it was too unrelenting when it came to the sour mood.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Pamela A. Poddany VINE VOICE on February 14, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
BLOODROOT

This book was popping up all over the place -- magazines, the VINE program where I was smart enough and lucky enough to be able to obtain a copy, advertisements, word of mouth -- I was eager to get my copy and dive right in. What a first novel! Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new voice in literature.

We are taken up to Bloodroot Mountain, located in Tennessee. It's a magically quiet place, an area where time seems to stand still, a location the world doesn't seem to know even exists. Living in the beautiful terrain are mountain folk who, for generations, have lived, loved, dealt with many heartaches and hardships. Yet, through love, hard work, and perseverance, they carry on.

The story is told my very favorite way, in the voices of several different characters. We meet Byrdie Lamb, living on the mountain forever and a day, who has a way with herbs, roots, and some say is quite magical. She is known as a 'granny woman' and people rely on her heavily for her special ways and gifts.

Byrdie births and raises many children, but it's her grand-daughter, Myra Lamb, who is her heart child. Myra is special too and has what many call 'haint blue eyes'. Myra loves her Granny and her life on the mountain. She runs wild and free, has her family and friends, and most of the boys that know her come to fall in love with her.

We meet many characters, each adding their own story into the stories of the other characters whose lives are all entwined together -- some in good ways, others in horrible ways -- through each other. There's the Cotter men, handsome John Odom, his brother, Hollis, the twins, Johnny and Laura.
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