Summary and book reviews of Bloodroot by Amy Greene

Bloodroot

By Amy Greene

Bloodroot
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  • Hardcover: Jan 2010,
    304 pages.
    Paperback: Jan 2011,
    304 pages.

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Book Summary

Named for a flower whose blood-red sap possesses the power both to heal and poison, Bloodroot is a stunning fiction debut about the legacies—of magic and madness, faith and secrets, passion and loss—that haunt one family across the generations, from the Great Depression to today.

The novel is told in a kaleidoscope of seamlessly woven voices and centers around an incendiary romance that consumes everyone in its path: Myra Lamb, a wild young girl with mysterious, haint blue eyes who grows up on remote Bloodroot Mountain; her grandmother Byrdie Lamb, who protects Myra fiercely and passes down “the touch” that bewitches people and animals alike; the neighbor boy who longs for Myra yet is destined never to have her; the twin children Myra is forced to abandon but who never forget their mother’s deep love; and John Odom, the man who tries to tame Myra and meets with shocking, violent disaster. Against the backdrop of a beautiful but often unforgiving country, these lives come together—only to be torn apart—as a dark, riveting mystery unfolds.

With grace and unflinching verisimilitude, Amy Greene brings her native Appalachia—and the faith and fury of its people—to rich and vivid life. Here is a spellbinding tour de force that announces a dazzlingly fresh, natural-born storyteller in our midst.

Byrdie

Myra looks like her mama, but prettier because of her daddy mixed in. She got just the right amount of both. The best thing about Myra's daddy was his eyes, blue as the sky. They'd pierce right through you. Myra ended up with the same blue-blue eyes. I always figured she was too pretty and then John Odom came along. Now I'll die alone. It's not that I'm scared of being alone with this mountain. I love it like another person. I just miss my grandbaby. Me and Myra's mama wasn't close. Clio had little regard for me or Macon either one. Myra's the daughter I always wished I had.

I didn't see nothing wrong with John Odom at first, but even if I'd seen that snake coiled up inside his heart I wouldn't have tried to stop her. I could tell by her eyes Myra had to have him whatever the outcome. Now I know the outcome is no good. This morning I went to see her and it broke my heart in two. I can't stand to think about what he might be doing to her beside of them tracks. Through the years I ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
About This Guide
The introduction, questions, and suggestions for further reading that follow are designed to enhance your reading group's discussion of Amy Greene's compelling debut novel, Bloodroot—a sweeping, multigenerational story set in the hardscrabble hollows of eastern Tennessee.

Reader's Guide
  1. Rather than relying on a single narrator to tell this moving, complex story that takes us from the Great Depression to today, Amy Greene uses the voices of six characters in different time periods to share their memories, their family histories, their connections to one another, and the circumstances that have enriched their lives or led to unintended sorrow. Why do you think she chose to tell the story ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

Bloodroot presents a range of voices by weaving together narratives from Myra Lamb's family. Author Amy Greene prevents the narratives from sprawling like kudzu by organizing them into paired sections, allowing characters to alternate speaking in groups of two. The result is a dynamic, layered effect that allows the reader to sink progressively deeper into the Lamb family, as opposed to the traditional approach of going forward through a linear plot progression... While stylistic parallels to Wordsworth's daffodils are evident throughout the novel, Greene's characters function with independence and resolution that bring the American transcendentalists - Emerson, Thoreau - more readily to mind. Bloodroot works at a slower, heavier pace than Fannie Flagg's Fried Green Tomatoes or Rebecca Wells' Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, and readers that enjoyed Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain will find pleasure in Bloodroot's pages.   (Reviewed by Elizabeth Whitmore Funk).

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Media Reviews
Entertainment Weekly

Some novels are so powerful, so magical in their sweep and voice, that they leave you feeling drugged.... Bloodroot, set in the bone-poor hollows of the eastern Tennessee mountains, is such a book.

Library Journal

Though Greene has a flair for physical description, indistinct characters and frequent shifts in point of view throughout the novel lead to confusion, lessening the impact of the story's dramatic potential. Predictable plotlines detract from the enjoyment as well.

Kirkus Reviews

Pitch-perfect voices tell a story loaded with lyric suffering and redemption-bound to be a huge hit.

Booklist

Starred Review. With a style as elegant as southern novelist Lee Smith's and a story as affecting as The Color Purple, this debut offers stirring testimony to the resilience of the human spirit.

Marie du Vaure, Vroman's Bookstore (in Publishers Weekly's 'Galley Talk')

Greene's stirring work needs to be in everyone's hands.

Boston Globe

Greene does a masterful job of crafting a palpable setting... But in the end, it’s Greene’s characters we want more of. And since we don’t get to spend enough time with any one of them - a hazard of having six voices narrating over the course of about 50 years - we can never fully realize them as whole. Still, she offers a fascinating and authentic look at a rural world full of love and life, dreams and disappointment.

IndieNext Pick - Janel Feierabend, Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA

This multi-generational story is a must-read for those who wish to expand their horizons, experience a part of our country often ignored, and face challenges head-on through honest and sparse prose. I'm still reeling.

Reader Reviews
Eileen Elkinson

Exceptional debut, can't wait for more books
This is a sensitively written novel, an often tragic yet poignant depiction of life in the Appalachian mountains. Specifically Bloodroot Mountain, named after the bloodroot flower that gave Myra Lamb her name. A flower that contains the ability to ...   Read More

CarolK

A Stunning Debut
Bloodroot is a gut wrenching, raw, tense, exquisite debut. Bloodroot has been compared to The Color Purple or the Glass Castle. For me, it is more like She Walks These Hills by Sharyn McCrumb. It is the kind of book you need to read yourself, not ...   Read More

mainlinebooker

Great voices
There has been criticism that the shifting voices in chapters leads to confusion, but I did not feel this way at all. The voices were incredibly authentic, and although the pace was slower in the beginning the increasing tension continued to build. I...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

William Wordsworth
Characters in Bloodroot rely on William Wordsworth's poetry as a source of comfort and inspiration, but echoes of his literary philosophy and poetic interests can also be found in the pages of Amy Greene's novel.

Just as Bloodroot relies on memory to tell its stories, much of Wordsworth's poetry focuses on capturing moments of memory and recollection. He developed a philosophy of "two consciousnesses": himself in the present and himself in the past, and a lot of his poetry sought to identify the discrepancy between these two. Whereas Marcel Proust, in his exhausting account, In Search of Lost Time, pursues the depth of memory through the taste of his madeleine cookie, Wordsworth's poetry explores the ...

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