‘Bloodroot’ a brutal Appalachian tale


  “Bloodroot” is not a romanticized Southern story filled with sweet tea and fried green tomatoes. 
  No, Amy Greene’s generational tale takes place on a mountain where tangled roots become knotted through alcoholism, poverty and violence.
  Set in Greene’s native Appalachia, “Bloodroot” tells of one family’s struggles through loss and hardship as well as their constant but contradictory relationship with the land.
  Through shifting narrators, a mystery involving love and abuse emerges, centering around Myra Lamb, an untamable creature with an enchanting nature.
  Living with Myra on Bloodroot Mountain is her granny, Byrdie, who adores the girl, passing on what she knows of magic and medicine.
  There’s also Doug Cotter, a neighbor boy smitten with Myra, though he knows he’ll never have her.
  Later, there are Myra’s twins, Johnny and Laura, who experience both the power and isolation of the land.
  And finally John Odom, a brutal man who marries Myra and ends up reaping what he sows.
  Together this cast seems like a family cursed — and some believe they are — as damaged parents damage their kids, dooming them to repeat past mistakes.
  When John Odom attempts to assert control over Myra, to make her into a proper wife, she snaps, and a mystery develops, pulling the reader through to see what happens to these colorful but flawed people, whether they will survive their travails or fall to the hard and often violent nature of mountain living.
  “Some creatures are just meant to be left alone. They can’t be held on to, even if we love them more than anything,” Doug Cotter says, bringing to mind Myra’s wild spirit and how attempting to make a person change is essentially forcing them to go against their nature.
  “Bloodroot” is a dark tale, bouncing around in time, which could depress and confuse some readers. There’s plenty of foreshadowing, as from the beginning it is clear that something very bad happens to John Odom, and one night’s violence will be felt for years to come.
  The truths found in “Bloodroot” can be heartbreaking, but with hardship comes resilience, which seems to run in the mountain’s water. The land strengthens the spirit, and the characters’ ties to nature become as necessary as air.
  Greene incorporates William Wordsworth in trying to express this essential link to Bloodroot Mountain. Myra used to whisper the poet’s words to herself, almost as a prayer:
  “These beauteous forms, through a long absence, have not been to me as is a landscape to a blind man’s eye, but oft, in lonely rooms, and ’mid the din of towns and cities, I have owed to them, in hours of weariness, sensations sweet, felt in the blood, and felt along the heart.”
  This sentiment flows throughout the pages of “Bloodroot,” a book with authentic flavor, where nothing is ever black or white — no one completely good or bad — and where the mountain is both healing and unforgiving.