Saturday, May 25, 2013

Bloodroot by Amy Greene

Bloodroot by Amy Greene.

The minute the baby opened her eyes Byrdie knew that LouAnn's curse has been lifted. Angry about a relative's will that left her out, LouAnn put a curse on the family until someone in the family was born with haint blue eyes. 

Haint blue is supposed to ward off evil spirits and curses in the Appalachian subculture but its also a rare eye color in some families. Byrdie's Grandmaw said, "That old devil knows ain't nobody been born with blue eyes in our family for generations." 

So begin Amy Greene's captivating Appalachian tale. Folk medicine, witch craft, fortune-telling are major components of Greene's story. Doug soon learns that his beloved Myra is a member of a family rumored to be witches.

Douglas' doomed love for Myra is a familiar story--a backwoods version of Jay Gatsby and Daisy--yet it also remarkably unique.  Unlike Gatsby, Doug is remarkably self-aware and besotted at the same time.

"That night I was so dizzy and sick...thinking about what Tina Cutshaw had said in fifth grade, that bad things would happen to me if I kept on loving Myra. I guess I knew even back then how things would turn out."

The second half of the book documents Myra's sad decline and the tragic fate of her children, John and Laura. Like her mother and her granny before that, Myra has made terrible choices in exchange for blood-red love.


The man Myra most desires and marries turns out to be cruel and possessive. Just like Wild Rose, the Cotters' paint horse, Myra craves freedom. Lacking an education, except for a deep and abiding love for Wordsworth's poetry, Myra lacks the ability to secure the independence and freedom she craves.


Myra makes one terrible choice after another until she is forced to leave her beloved mountain. The twins are left to scramble on their own, even if the blood-red ring and memories of happier times bind them together.

Tightly woven into the plot is the superstitions and beliefs that Appalachian subculture is known for. Mountain people believe in signs, curses, love potions, revenge, and miracles. They believe that some have special gifts e.g. the gift of vision or the healing touch.

Myra herself has a disturbing vision when she first enters the rented home--a ramshackle home near railroad tracks--that she and her new husband share.

A turning point in the novel occurs when John and Laura no longer believe in the curse that has seemingly darkened their family's life. While parts of  Bloodroot are incredibly sad and troubling, the novel ends on a hopeful note. This is an inter-generational story about love, madness, resentment and forgiveness.