A story told in multiple voices, Bloodroot follows the bloodline of the Lamb family through three generations of women in the mountains of eastern Tennessee. Guided by blind passion, the women of the novel pursue love with abandon but always return to nature and to each other for final refuge.
The plot of Bloodroot centers on Myra, a free-spirited girl who grows into a troubled adulthood, but the novel begins with the story of Myra’s grandmother, Byrdie Lamb.
Byrdie is raised in a small rural village called Chickweed Holler, where she lives with her mother, grand-mother and two great-aunts. The generations of women form a tight-knit and loving unit, separate from the life of the other families in Chickweed Holler.
Life in Chickweed Holler is simple and rustic. Byrdie is happy there, experiencing only occasional hardship as on an overnight trip with one of her great aunts. Itchy feet, interpreted as a wander-lust, have plagued Byrdie her whole life. One night an aunt, Myrtle, takes Byrdie out travelling the countryside. In the dark of night, camping a field, Myrtle presents Byrdie with a chance to see her future lover in the smoke of a campfire. Byrdie is frightened by the potency of the vision she receives when a face appears fully formed in the fire.
The women perform a special service for the community, doing magic to heal and help the people of Chickweed Holler. This makes them venerated outcasts in the community, a special but suspect group.
When Byrdie gets sick, the aunts cannot heal her themselves. Byrdie is taken to a man who has never seen his father, a man named Clifford. By breathing into Byrdie’s mouth, her affliction is healed but the episode holds a greater significance for the family. Clifford, soon nicknamed Pap, falls for Byrdie’s mother and courts her, ultimately marrying her to the delight of Byrdie, who quickly fell in love with him as well.
The family is happy, though Clifford takes Byrdie and her mother to live on his farm in Piney Grove, far away from Chickweed Holler, where they farm and live a quiet life.
As a young teen, Byrdie meets Macon Lamb, eight years older than she is, and falls for him right away. The two meet in church in Piney Grove where Byrdie struggles to gain Macon’s attention. She succeeds and the two soon get married when Byrdie is fourteen years old.
Before marrying Macon, Byrdie steals a blood-red ring from her employers, the Cochran’s, and uses the ring as a wedding ring, giving it to Macon. Byrdie then moves in with Macon on Bloodroot Moutain, where she spends the rest of her life.
Years go by and Byrdie and Macon have five children. Only two of them live into adulthood, but both die before reaching the age of twenty-two. The last child, Clio, is like her mother: headstrong, passionate. She marries a man with whom Byrdie does not approve. Clio has a child, Myra, and dies in a car accident when Myra is still an infant.
Thus, Byrdie and Macon raise Myra as their own.
Also living on the mountain as Myra grows up are two families, the Barnett and Cotter families. The Cotters have two children, Doug and Mark. The Barnett family have no children. Myra grows up playing with the two Cotter boys, both of whom attempt to court Myra. Doug confides in Mr. Barnett often about his feelings for Myra as the two strike up a mentorship.
Through elementary school, Doug and Myra have a special friendship but Myra quickly leaves the friendship behind when she meets John Odom, a beautiful and dark young man from town. Like her mother and grandmother, Myra falls passionately for the man who catches her eye and tries to catch his.
Desperate to draw him to her, Myra follows the taboo recipe she’s heard about in stories from Chickweed Holler: she eats a...
(The entire section is 1550 words.)