The Maid’s Version by Daniel Woodrell

maids versionThe Maid’s Version by Daniel Woodrell
Little Brown, September 2013
Source: Publisher via Twitter giveaway

While I’ve only read Winter’s Bone and a couple stories in The Outlaw Album, I consider myself a Daniel Woodrell fan, and I am very impressed with his latest book, The Maid’s Version. I was entranced from the beginning, which I happened to read aloud. Woodrell’s prose is so good: evocative, dense, and he captures the feeling of the young grandson listening to his grandmother Alma, the maid of the title, tell the story of the Arbor Dance Hall Explosion that killed forty-two people, including her sister Ruby, in 1929.

The story is the story of the town of West Table, Missouri, which is in the Ozarks. There are vignettes about the people who died, and there are stories about Alma and her family through a number of generations. I know it’s common to say that the town or the setting was a character too, and I think in The Maid’s Version West Table is a character whose every aspect is laid bare: classes, genders, businesses, crimes, and more. Life without the social safety nets established after the Great Depression was bleak.

The Maid’s Version is a short book– only 164 pages in my version– and I found it best to read it in small chunks in order to retain more of the characters names and their relationships. As I said earlier, the writing is dense. The denseness is not a criticism of the writing at all, I just had to adjust my usual reading style to enjoy the book more. I also think it would be great in audio, based on the snippets I read aloud.

I purposely avoided talking about the plot and details of the story both because the book is so short and because the quality of the writing struck me even more than the story, which is rare for me. The Maid’s Version is one of my favorite books of the year.

12 thoughts on “The Maid’s Version by Daniel Woodrell

  1. Rebecca – I like Woodrell’s work too, and I agree that his way with prose is enough in itself to carry a story. I’m glad this one is just as good 🙂

  2. Very interesting. Would not have thought to look at this myself, but this review will send me to check it out.

  3. I narrated the audiobook of The Maid’s Version — my fourth Woodrell narration — and it is by far the most rewarding narration I’ve done so far. The writing is dense, as you say, but, also as you say, so much darn fun to read aloud.

  4. Nice review, Rebecca. I want to read something by Woodrell.

    I am revealing my lack of knowledge of geography when I say this, but this sounded like the South to me for some reason, then I checked out the location and southern Missouri borders on the southern states. Being from the South (originally), you would think I would know that. Anyway, definitely sounds like an area that I should read about.

    • I think all of his books take place in the Ozarks, but don’t quote me. (I read an interview with him in The Daily Beast that was pretty interesting that mentioned some of his earlier stuff.) I don’t know much about the Ozarks either except that I’ve driven through southern Missouri en route to NM from Indiana, and I spent a week at a cabin near Branson one vacation. It’s not a way to get an in-depth perspective on the area, going fishing and checking out the Precious Moments Chapel for entertainment and all.

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