Last pick of last year: Winter's Bone.
General consensus: it's a go.
Also: it reminds me of when I was doing rural, rural social work. Somewhere in the early years of my social work, I spent my mornings working with a Child Protective Services Unit (on a contract) in the wilds of Eastern Oregon (think: mountains and desert and few people instead of the Gorge and waterfalls and the coast).
Main character Ree Dolly is part of an extended family network that is stricken by poverty and the use of crystal meth and crime .... but is, in part, strengthened by their relationships with each other.
About an hour outside of the town I lived in in isolated Eastern Oregon was an even more isolated commune of a very close, very cloistered "neighborhood" of people looking out for each other. The "founder" of this community had come from rural Arkansas about 60 years prior (best guess?) for reasons we rumored about.
Think Annie Oakley and Billy the Kid.
And this founder had attracted to himself people on the down and outs with society. We had quite a few domestic violence arrests, child welfare referrals, etc., come out of the community -- a community where a few of the homes had running water and electricity ... and a few did not. One house made entirely out of straw. (I know that many environmentally conscious contractors are experimenting with straw as an insulator, but trust me, this is different). Somebody made an independent movie about the founder - if you're curious, let me know and I'll figure out a way to get the movie title to you.
When we did have to go out on a CPS referral to this community, we would have to take the Deputy, Roger, with us. Roger knew the founder and knew the community and they knew him. Seeing that he was part of "The Law" they probably didn't like him, but I don't think they were entirely distrustful of him. Roger was a likable guy, even if he did drive a county car and carry a rifle. The first time I went out there with Roger and the CPS worker, the founder of the community was waiting outside the straw bale / horse gate entrance to the compound with a couple of cars, a couple of young men, and a couple of guns.
Turns out they knew we were coming.
Turns out the founder was now in his 70s (best guess), tiny, and missing all of his teeth. But the pistol on his hip told a story that argued against any of his apparent physical frailty.
This is also a story about bending the rules to support the client, in case I forget to tell you later.
Roger pulled up first and got out of the car, greeting the founder with a "Founder" and a spit of tobacco. Turns out the CPS worker I was with had also never been to the community. But the CPS worker I was with knew what she was doing. She also got out of the car and slowly walked up to the founder,smiling brilliantly, showing lots of teeth and said, "Founder? I'm Worker. It's so nice to meet you. I saw the movie about you! I've never met a movie star before!"
Toothless, tiny founder with the pistol on his hip broke out into the biggest, toothless grin I've ever seen. I'd tell you what he said next, but truthfully, I couldn't understand a word he was saying. It was enough for the2 young men (who were not tiny) to relax their grip on their rifles. Building on this movie star theme, Worker held up the evidence camera and said, "Do you mind if we take a picture with you?" Another engulfing toothless grin. Roger looked over at us and shook his head (I think I can imagine what he was saying to himself). Still shaking his head, he lumbered over to us, gave us A Look and took the camera. Founder in the middle and Worker and I on either side, the picture was taken.
Turns out social workers aren't the only ones who bend the rules for the good of the order.
I still have that picture.
I don't think the Supervisors at Child Welfare were all that pleased when they heard the story, but what I know is that the Worker managed to explain where we needed to go on the compound and that the Founder cheerfully let us pass.
For better or worse, this community was close and attempted to take care of each other in the ways they knew how. Oppressed by poverty, generations of drug use and generations of violence, they succeeded in creating a place (value judgments aside) where they felt accepted by each other. (The flip side of that argument is that,oppressed by poverty, they had nowhere else to go.)
So. If you happen to pick up Winter's Bone, I'll be curious to know what themes you pick up on. What buoyed you. What depressed you. What challenged you. It was a good pick.
Next pick: We're joining in the rest of Multnomah county in reading "The Other Wes Moore." Follow the link and join us! I found my copy at Powell's, discounted, for $10.00. I'm a book klepto, but this one is getting some press, so I'm confident your library will have some ideas on how to track one down.
(Elizabeth, I hope this was a little more engaging than the hoarding post! :D)