Christmas has come and gone. We still have our tree up, at least for a few more days, and way more sweets thank I think we can actually eat! Now hopefully around here we can get back to what we love doing – reading! This will be the last New Fiction Friday of the year, but there are many more to come in 2014.
Just last week I finished reading The Maid’s Version by Daniel Woodrell, which was first published in September. This is his latest book since Winter’s Bone, which was released in 2006, and was made into a movie starring Jennifer Lawrence. Woodrell is an interesting writer with quite a unique voice. Most of his books are centered in the Ozarks, an area he knows well, as he was born in southern Missouri, and spent most of his life there. He has a way of channeling the midwest through his stories, and does so well through this varied cast of characters.
Based on a true story of an explosion at a local dance hall, which took place in 1929, events unfold through the voices of many different witnesses. The incident resulted in 42 deaths, including a young woman named Ruby, who is the younger sister of Alma, one of the main characters. Alma is the first to recount the event that took her sister’s life, but it’s not until 1965 that she begins to really talk about it. Alek, her grandson, had been to her house for the summer. She’s a bit of an eccentric, now lives alone almost as an outcast in the town. She spent most of her life serving the well to do families of the town, and had some pretty strong opinions of them. This leads to some raised doubts, and as the event is retold through other characters, it seems she’s not the only one with those suspicions.
Not until nearly the last page are any real details revealed about who was behind the explosion. So many people are suspected, and accused. Was it “city folk” or mobsters from St Louis? Could it have been the banker who had been having an affair with Ruby?
I actually found this book hard to follow, as it involves so many characters, and is told in third person from the perspective of many different witnesses. I do have to say I was surprised by the ending though. One of the things I like most about Woodrell’s writing is the location of his stories – this one takes place in rural Missouri, just outside of St Louis. That is my hometown, and I emjoyed the mentioning of local landmarks, like Lindenwood College and Arlington raceway. Now I’m interesting in reading some of his other books – I’m definitely putting Winter’s Bone on my to-read list!