This was a great movie, and it's a great book as well. The action centers around a sixteen-year-old girl living in an impossible situation with overwhelming responsibilities in the face of a serious threat to her family. She manages to endure with remarkable integrity while figuring out how to survive within the community of her birth that lives by its own honor code independent of law enforcement. It's just a slice of a life happening in a forgotten corner of America.
The story takes place in he Ozark Mountains of southern Missouri not far from the Arkansas border in an isolated community with an economy apparently based on the illegal manufacture of crank (methamphetamine). Everybody knows everybody else, family histories run deep, and there is an understood code of silence in a Mafia style environment of deadly punishment for those who violate the code. The main character named Ree Dolly is brave, resourceful and pissed off about lack of cooperation from those who could help solve her family's crisis that will result in their losing their home and ancestral property filled with valuable timber. So she goes into the heart of danger, gets badly beaten, and the resulting gossip of her mistreatment embarrasses her opponents into helping her to solve the situation.
The book is packed with emotion but remains understated. The experience of reading this book is sort of like wadding through a miserable hell while being pulled toward continued reading in order to witness Ree's enduring strength in striving for a solution for her family's situation. The book ends on a note of optimism but with continued ambiguity. The question is asked repeatedly at the end of the book, "Are you leaving?" It appears that leaving would be good for the girl's future, but is leaving the family's roots really the best thing to do? This question isn't answered, but is probably implied as a "no." The narrative uses "hillbilly" style speech in its dialog complete with phonetic spelling. This slowed down my reading speed, but it did enhance the story's authenticity.