For those who loved Winter’s Bone, Ozarks author Daniel Woodrell has followed it up with a collection of short stories entitled The Outlaw Album. The book contains tales of desperate acts, desperate thoughts and desperate lives without hope.
The first story, “The Echo of neighborly Bones,” is about a man who has killed his neighbor – and continues to kill his corpse, even after death. He is angry for the man killing his wife’s dog, his apparent wealth, for his new house, and at the government and all those that came before the neighbor that took the family’s land.
In another, a man returns to the vacation place of his youth and purchases a campground, trying to regain those feelings of joy and abandon. But he finds that the campground is now populated with Meth addicts, and they steal and threaten other campers.
In Twin Forks, a niece has become the caretaker for her rapist-uncle, after she has split his head open with an ax, and he is a vegetable. As she cares for her ‘200 pound baby,’ she realizes that he is on the mend, and having thoughts again, and gaining the strength to act on them.
His writing is crisp – he makes you feel his character’s pain, and the effect of their deeds on their lives and families. I’ve spent some time in the Ozarks, and I can easily visualize his characters and settings. His stories are oddly off-putting, but his characters draw you in – like Florianne’s father, who has been searching for her killer for 17 years in the faces of his neighbors.