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.
“Some novels are so powerful, so magical in their sweep and voice, that they leave you feeling drugged. Close the pages and the people in them keep right on talking to you. Amy Greene’s debut novel, Bloodroot, set in the bone-poor hollows of the eastern Tennessee mountains, is such a book. . . . I found myself close to tears at several turns—devastated along with the characters by another crazed loss—and yet never depressed. Greene’s writing is so pure and effortless, so evocative of a far-off place, that the beauty of her words transcends whatever miseries her characters must overcome. . . . Greene, who grew up in the Smoky Mountains, captures what poverty looks and feels and sounds like. Her descriptions of a life lived by the railroad tracks rival any corner scene from The Wire. The vernacular is effortless and thick . . . This is a terribly sad, breathtakingly good read. Greene, get to writing another one quick.”
—Karen Valby, Entertainment Weekly, Grade: A
“Stirring . . . The wild beauty of Appalachia is the backdrop for Bloodroot, Greene’s entrancing debut novel told in six alternating voices over four generations. . . . The novel’s charm comes from its hints of magical realism. Women with ‘gifts’—to heal, make love potions and put curses on their enemies—add color.”
—Carol Memmott, USA Today
“Masterful . . . Deep in Appalachia, where children run barefoot through the trees and the scent of wood smoke fills your nose, there’s a place called Bloodroot Mountain, the fictional setting of Amy Greene’s intricately layered debut novel . . . The book is narrated by six characters across four generations . . . voices [that] weave together a textured patchwork of life in a world geographically isolated but full of humanity. . . . A fascinating and authentic look at a rural world full of love and life, dreams and disappointment.”
—Nicole Cammorata, The Boston Globe
“Four generations come to life in this beautiful and haunting debut novel by a daughter of Appalachia. It’s about family, forbidden love and magic—and Greene’s prose will cast a spell on you.”
""Bloodroot is a marvel of a first novel, its world deftly conjured, with a mood and magic all its own. I don't know what captivated me more, the vividness of its voices or its evocation of a corner of the American landscape both foreign and familiar—but I was riveted from start to finish.""
—Arthur Golden, author of Memoirs of a Geisha
""Amy Greene's Bloodroot can stand proudly beside Alice Walker's The Color Purple and Jeannette Walls's The Glass Castle, two works which likewise examine the isometric push of the human spirit against the immovable forces of tyranny and poverty. Greene's novel has everything I savor in fiction: flawed but sympathetic characters, a narrative as unpredictable as it is engaging, and a setting rendered with such a vivid palette of local color detail that you'd swear you were there.""
—Wally Lamb, author of The Hour I First Believed
“Brooding, dark and beautifully imagined . . . If Wuthering Heights had been set in southern Appalachia, it might have taken place on Bloodroot Mountain, where Amy Greene’s debut novel by the same name unfolds. . . . Greene, a native of eastern Tennessee, has filled her book with the sights and sounds—and the ‘granny women,’ or healers—of the wild, untouched landscape of her childhood. These wise women have ‘the touch’: a gift for working with herbs, curing disease, delivering babies and foreseeing the future. Used for good, the touch is a benign power in harmony with nature, but it can ‘draw ugly things to you if you’re not right with the Lord.’ The Bell sisters of Bloodroot Mountain once performed everyday magic that earned them respect for miles around. But a jealous cousin cursed them long ago, and the only one who can lift the family’s run of bad luck is a baby ‘born with haint blue eyes, a special color that wards off evil spirits and curses.’ When blue-eyed Myra Lamb comes into the world, her grandmother Byrdie sighs with relief that the spell has finally ended. Myra has inherited her great-great aunts’ gifts, and soon shows an ability to commune with birds, horses and other wild creatures: A neighbor finds her asleep in the leaves one day, a kaleidoscope of butterflies covering her like a blanket. But like many a human girl, Myra falls for the wickedly handsome John Odom . . . and she’s willing to do whatever it takes to win him—even if it means resorting to a love charm she knows is taboo . . . From then on, the touch swirls through Bloodroot like a deadly undercurrent that drags Myra under, along with everyone she touches, thwarting their efforts to love and be loved. . . . Bloodroot is a finely crafted, mystical look at a vanishing culture and its healers, once revered for their wisdom and faith. . . . This is rough magic, unromanticized and fierce, that came down from the Scots-Irish who first settled the high hills, bringing their folklore and spells with them in hopes of surviving a harsh environment. Through examining the many nuances of the touch, the author also mines the elusive connections between people and what happens when those connections fail—or are never developed properly.”
—Gina Webb, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“Compelling . . . Greene lovingly describes [Appalachia’s] mountains and hollows, its waters filled with bluegills. There’s also much talk of healing and magic and backwoods folk wisdom. But this story is really about the fraught, sometimes dangerous bonds between children and their mothers, and the spillover of violence from one generation to the next. . . . [Greene] succeeds in capturing the intimate relationship her characters have with the natural world. . . . In unadorned but assured prose, [she] takes her readers to the hardscrabble world of life in a blue-collar Appalachian town . . . Greene captures well the electric emotional snap of a woman about to break free from an inheritance of violence and poverty.”
—Lisa Fugard, The New York Times Book Rev