Here's another johnny-come-lately endorsement for Daniel Woodrell, whose 2006 novel Winter's Bone is a great piece of writing. I'd never heard of this author until Uriah at Crime Scraps mentioned Woodrell's novel Tomato Red in a post the other day. The passage he quoted was so evocative that I decided to investigate.
Woodrell is a superb stylist, and with this particular protagonist, plot and setting, he's created something that reads a lot like literature. A 16-year-old Ozark mountain girl has become the de facto head of the house since her no-account dad decamped to parts unknown. He's put up the house and land as bond, and unless he can be found, the girl and her young brothers will be left homeless during a particularly bleak winter.
The story reminds me of Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain -- a noble quest in a brutish world -- and I've not seen characters so sharply and economically drawn in a long while. While the milieu of rural crank labs and amoral tribalism is pretty grim, there is also enough humor to humanize it.
I'll be reading the rest of Daniel Woodrell's novels in the weeks to come.