Book Review: Bloodroot

Narrated By: Lorna Raver, Kirby Heyborne, Jessie Bernstein, Rebecca Lowman, Emily Janice Card, & Richard McGonagle
Published By: Random House Audio
Publication Date: December 2009
Audio Length: 13 hours, 40 minutes
Source: Library
Audience: Adult - Southern/Appalachian Fiction

On The Story & Writing:

Bloodroot focuses on three generations of the Lamb family that resides on Bloodroot Mountain in Tennessee. The story is told through the perspective of six different people. It takes some time to settle into this structure, but I enjoyed the layers each character brought to the story. At it's heart, this is really the story of Myra Lamb: the tempestuous granddaughter of Byrdie and Macon, the unrequited love of Douglas, the mother of Johnny and Laura, and wife of John. Each of these people helped shape Myra and influenced the course of her life. I found that learning about who she was from their perspectives was far more interesting than just getting the story straight from her. Myra does get her chance to speak directly to the reader, but she is one of the last characters to do so.

While I fully accept that life in the rural areas of the Appalachians is difficult - especially for those who live in poverty - I find that there is much beauty to live in this wild terrain as well. For generations, my family has lived in the Appalachian region. We also have some family stories that would turn your hair white, but there are also so many of love and strong family ties. Appalachian people are some of the most resilient I have ever encountered; they have a strength that I admire. I feel that Amy Greene did a beautiful job of illustrating the balance between beauty and hardship. 

However, I can without hesitation say that I would not want to be part of the Lamb family. In spite of the blips of beauty and happiness, this family suffers a great deal. In fact, I wouldn't suggest picking this novel up when you're depressed - it will only make that dark thundercloud above your head rumble louder. I found myself having to walk away from this story on more than one occasion because I couldn't handle one more bad thing happening to the characters. I appreciated that the novel ended with a sense of hope and closure, but geez getting to that point was rough.

I truly loved the sections of the novel that belonged to Byrdie. She reminded me so much of my own grandmother and great grandmother. I loved her stories, her fierce loyalty, and her unwavering love for her family. The stories about her aunts were some of my favorite moments in this novel. I wanted to curl up in those stories and rest awhile. Byrdie's words of wisdom sounded so familiar and I could almost imagine them coming off the lips of my grandmothers. I also found Byrdie to be a symbol of life in the past in the Appalachians while Myra became a symbol for more contemporary times.

Life and family are complicated things. Greene shines a light on the darkest recesses of one woman's life and celebrates her joys. It's hard knowing a person - fictional or not - who holds so many complexities. Myra's life truly is a balance between the light and dark. Horrible moments shape us as much as the happy ones. I didn't expect this novel to be so dark, but in the end, I understood why Greene chose this direction. 

 It should also be noted that Greene's writing is beautiful: lyrical, descriptive, and fringed with emotion. I loved how the setting of Bloodroot Mountain and the neighboring towns came to life in my mind. Greene certainly knows have to infuse a strong sense of place into her work.

I would recommend this book to those who enjoy fiction Southern Fiction or family sagas.

On the Audio:

It was FABULOUS! Each of the characters who had a narration strand was voiced by a different actor. I think they all did an amazing job of adding a southern flair to their voice without making it sound unrealistic or over the top. So many times the accents can make or break an audiobook for me. There wasn't one narrator who irked me. Each narrator did a beautiful job of bringing the emotion and pain of this story to life. I particularly loved Rebecca Lowman's segments. She has a hypnotic, emotional tone to her voice that kept me riveted. Her segments are also some of the most heart breaking moments in the story. I wish more audiobooks were done in full cast. 

I honestly am not sure I would have finished this one on my own, but the narrators kept me wanting to find out how things ended. I cared about these characters on a deeper level because I heard their voices and didn't have to create them on my own.

One Last Gripe: I wasn't prepared for the darkness and depression contained within this story.

My Favorite Thing About This Book: Byrdie's stories

First Sentence: Myra looks like her mama, but prettier because of her daddy mixed in.

Favorite Character: Byrdie

Least Favorite Character: John

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.


  1. Oh no, I really shouldn't read any more dark and depressing books but this sounds so good! Great review :)

    - Ellie at The Selkie Reads Stories

    1. It is certainly worth the time - just prepare yourself mentally before heading in. It did an emotional number on me.

  2. I loved reading this, but it was a lot darker than I had anticipated as well. Great review.


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