At the end of my discussion of Horns by Joe Hill, I mentioned that I was in the midst of reading another novel that I had found through a review in the now-defunct Realms of Fantasy Magazine. I finished reading that book, the amazing Bloodroot by Amy Greene, this afternoon. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Bloodroot is in some sense the story of Myra Lamb, a woman who grows up and lives in the mountains of Tennessee, but the author’s approach is unique. She breaks the story into four sections with the narrative told from six points of view, only one of which is the main character’s. Instead, we hear Myra’s story and her effect on the people around her from her grandmother, who raised her after the deaths of her parents; the boy next door (figuratively speaking; we’re talking rural America here), who is hopelessly in love with her and will never have her; her twin son and daughter; and her violent husband who is haunted by his own demons. The story traces the tragic history of Myra’s family through early deaths, early and ill-considered marriages, abusive spouses and in-laws, dear friendships, and stints in prison.
The book gets its title from the name of the mountain that Myra calls home and the name of a plant that grows there. The mountain is like another character, overshadowing all that happens, pulling the characters back despite their sometimes desperate attempts to get away. These people have hard, painful lives; this is not a feel-good story, but it left me feeling surprisingly uplifted at the end. Ms. Greene’s sense of place, a place she obviously knows and loves well, is magnificently displayed throughout the book. I grew very attached to the characters and ached as I saw them stumble into situations and actions that bring them trouble.
One of the things I really like about this book is the multi-dimensional nature of the characters. The most despicable of them have some good in them, and the heroes and heroines, genuinely good people, do some awful things. The reader can sympathize with the reasons for these actions while not necessarily approving of them. The characters are much like real people that way.
For those who like fantasy, you will find little hints of magic sprinkled throughout the narrative. These incidents are remarkable for the way that the characters just accept them as normal. Bloodroot Mountain is not a fantasy setting, but it does seem to have magical qualities.
Bloodroot is Ms. Greene’s first published novel, and her Web site states that she has another on the way next year. I am very much looking forward to what she gives us next. This is a fine young writer whom we would all do well to emulate.