Amy Greene's Bloodroot
If Mudbound and Wuthering Heights were mashed up like DJ Dangermouse’s Gray Album, the resulting masterpiece would be Bloodroot, Amy Greene’s debut novel set in Appalachia. The tale follows Myra Lamb, who in her disappointments represents a type of population in rural America. As the story unfolds, Greene artfully draws the story around us, distributing key point plots like much desired crumbs from a table. With the slow pace of a Southern drawl, Greene creates a multi-layered, intense tale that spellbinds the reader until the last line.
sarahsachaMyra Lamb is the child her grandmother has been waiting for ever since a relative put the family under a curse that would not be lifted until a child was born with "haint" blue eyes. Myra's grandmother lost all her children, and she desperately wants to keep her precious grandchild with her on Bloodroot Mountain, but like her mother before her, Myra wants to fly. Unfortunately, she flies into the arms of John Odom, a miserable, beautiful man who treats Myra very differently than what she expected. The novel is told from the point of view of six main characters, each character telling their story in their own first-person section, which allows for an individualized emotional intimacy. However, because we hear from everyone, we have a complete view of the novel's world. And it is quite a world. Greene penetrates the poverty, hopelessness, and fear of her characters’ experiences to contemplate the essence of what we need to live, which the novel suggests, is love.
sarahsachaFor the characters of Bloodroot, love brings connection, belonging, safety, and creativity. Without love, one is left in the clutches of the devil, or in Myra’s case, John Odom. Though some reviews have suggested that this novel is a commentary on the mother-child relationship, this is far too limited a view. It is not the pursuit of a better relationship with mothers, but a pursuit of love, as the characters disparately define it, that propels them. These characters lead hard lives – multiple children die in one year, husbands beat wives, dreams are killed, families are separated – but that does not hinder them in their search for love. The novel’s title intimates this dualism between love and evil, as the bloodroot plant is reputed to both poison and to heal.
sarahsachaWith its intensity, keen perception, precise language, and captivating characters, Bloodroot deserves a place on the bookshelf of Southern classics. Amy Greene writes in the tradition of Carson McCullers, Flannery O’Connor, and William Faulkner. This novel is not to be missed.