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Bloodroot (Vintage Contemporaries) Paperback – January 4, 2011
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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 legaciesâof magic and madness, faith and secrets, passion and lossâthat haunt one family across the generations.
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We meet Myra Odom, the center of the story, along with Byrdie Lamb, her grandmother; Douglas Cotter, Myra's neighbor and friend; her children, Johnny and Laura; and John Odom, the man whom Myra marries. It is a testament to Greene's writing that we won't easily forget these characters.
The different narrators didn't bother me; in fact, I enjoyed reading the various viewpoints. That's saying something, because sometimes that sort of thing does bother me. I thought it was really interesting how the character of Myra, who seems so compelling and magnetic (almost mythical) when described by the other characters, seems so ordinary when we read her section. I recall one character saying "She's made out of flesh and blood, just like anybody else." Myra's story is touching and sad. At one point, she says "Time is different on the mountain. It stretches out longer. I used to always know what year it was, and how old I would be on my next birthday. But, like names, it seems less important now."
The story of this family in Appalachia and what they go through over the years is heartbreaking at times, but it's handled in such a beautiful way by the author. You really feel like you are there in the story; you see the mountain and you can picture the characters. It's emotional without being sappy or maudlin. I thought the ending was amazing. The various threads of the story come together through the voice of John Odom in a memorable look at love in the heart of a deeply flawed man.
When I finished Bloodroot, I felt a little lost. I wanted to be back under its spell.
The story takes place in Bloodroot, TN, in the Appalachian Mountains and follows the life of Myra Lamb. Myra's story is presented through her eyes and the eyes of the other characters. There aren't really chapters, there are sections, each section headed by a different character.
At the beginning of the book, I found this very confusing. My notes...Doug is in love with Myra, Byrdie is married to Macon, Clio is Byrdie's daughter, Myra is Clio's daughter, Myra is mom to Laura and Johnny...give you an idea of what I was facing! Just when I would start getting a feel for a character, it would switch, and I would have to go check my notes to see who was who.
Even with all of this confusion, the writing was simple and poignant:
~The same God who made that sky full of stars had made this love and I couldn't wrap my brain around the bigness of either one.
~I reckon nary one of them has ever set foot in a church house, but they sure do spend plenty of time in the jailhouse.
~She was right about me. I've done a lot of things I never thought I'd do. When I was a little girl, I always figured I would marry a mountain man, who knew the sting of briar scratches, the teeth-rattling shiver of cold creek water, the black smell of garden soil that made you want to roll in it. But John was the first thing I ever saw that was prettier than my home.
About three quarters of the way through the book, it became easier to follow and enjoy, and by the end of the book, I was smitten.
Then Myra falls almost fatally in love with Johnny and he with her but their love is like something from a Greek tragedy. You just know it's not going to turn out well though Myra's survival streak re-emerges when she realizes she's pregnant. She screws up enough courage to get away from her physically and mentally abusive husband and slink back home to Grandma. Time plays an odd role in this book. It's hard to keep track of what century you're in because the events and living conditions don't jibe with modern existence. There isn't any central heating, phones and TV's are rare.
Central plot elements are isolation, the dark and light sides of loving, blood ties, and tradition. What happens feels pre-ordained. The beauty and wildness of mountain living are reflected in the engrossing plot, in fact the plot and it's pace are the best part of `Bloodroot'.