Book and Author of the Week
Woe to Live On
By Daniel Woodrell
Woe to Live On
When we think of the Civil War, images of great battles between Robert E. Lee and Ulysses Grant come to mind, but in the world of Daniel Woodrell, the Civil War was fought on an unmarked battlefield of neighbors against neighbors as Missouri was known as a border state during this bloody war. As a border state it was the Bushwackers (those supporting the Confederacy) and the Jayhawks (Those supporting the Union and Kansas militia who were very brutal in their methods). We meet Dutchy Roeder and Holt an ex-slave who supports the cause. One by one his comrades are killed or wounded in the fighting including Bull Jack who Dutchy is tasked with amputating his arm after he is shot in a raid, but Bull Jack dies during the operation. The details are graphic and unforgiving as part of Woodrell’s prose style reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy and Charles Frasier (who chronicles history of North Carolina).
It is one thing to write about history, it is quite another to bring it to life through vivid characters who seem as if they would be quite at home in modern times. In delving into their intimate lives, we begin to see parallels and connections to events that are taking place today. There is a great divide forming that formed over a century ago in this country that runs along racial lines at times. In looking through the eyes of a bushwhacker who would ride with Quantrill's Raiders in his historical raid on Lawrence, Kansas, it is easy to connect this bloody time with events in our headlines from places like Syria and Ukraine. Until we learn how to live with each other without resorting to violence when we have conflict, books like this will have significance even in our times.
Author steeped in history,
He lives in the Missouri Ozarks and writes about the people living there, the hill folk and their ways that he is a part of. Out in this country the rules are rugged and justice can be swift. In his novels, he celebrates the life of these people who are so often ignored in the mainstream literature. Writing about common people can be as exciting as writing about superheroes with superhuman powers. In his most famous novel Winter Bone that would become a movie starring Jennifer Lawrence, we see a way of life few of us will ever know outside this area known of the Ozarks, and in his writing that makes us all outsiders.