The Maid's Version (Paperback)
Kim's Staff Pick (September 2014): Now in PaperBack! Needing to knock some Literary Sojourn books off the list I picked a winner! Beautiful short Book packs a lot of punch. Loosely based on the real-life West Plains Dance Hall Explosion of 1928, it centers on Alma DeGeer Dunahew, a maid with three children in fictional West Table, Mo. After years of bitter silence, Alma has chosen to unburden her story on her grandson, Alek. When Alma’s sister Ruby is killed along with 42 other victims in the local Arbor Dance Hall, Alma is determined that the explosion was no accident. From these slim threads, Woodrell gives us many potential culprits, among them an Old Testament preacher and a gang of bank robbers, not to mention all the secrets and lies kept by the good people of any rural village. Short chapters reveal only the most telling and scarce details of Woodrell’s lineup of characters, lending the story a spare, bitter charm. Woodrell is a beautifully lyrical writer in that true southern prose.— From Kim B's Picks
The American master's first novel since Winter's Bone (2006) tells of a deadly dance hall fire and its impact over several generations.
Alma DeGeer Dunahew, the mother of three young boys, works as the maid for a prominent family in West Table, Missouri. Her husband is mostly absent, and, in 1929, her scandalous, beloved younger sister is one of the 42 killed in an explosion at the local dance hall. Who is to blame? Mobsters from St. Louis? The embittered local gypsies? The preacher who railed against the loose morals of the waltzing couples? Or could it have been a colossal accident?
Alma thinks she knows the answer--and that its roots lie in a dangerous love affair. Her dogged pursuit of justice makes her an outcast and causes a long-standing rift with her own son. By telling her story to her grandson, Alma finally gains some solace--and peace for her sister. He is advised to "Tell it. Go on and tell it"--tell the story of his family's struggles, suspicions, secrets, and triumphs.
About the Author
Five of Daniel Woodrell's eight published novels have been selected as New York Times Notable Books of the Year. Tomato Red won the PEN West Award for the Novel in 1999. Woodrell lives in the Ozarks near the Arkansas line with his wife, Katie Estill.
"The Maid's Version is one more resplendent trophy on the shelf of an American master."--William Giraldi, The Daily Beast
"The Maid's Version is stunning. Daniel Woodrell writes flowing, cataclysmic prose with the irresistible aura of fate about it."--Sam Shepard
"Further proof, as if we needed it, that Woodrell is a writer to cherish."--Adam Woog, Seattle Times
"Throughout this remarkable book, Woodrell is an unsentimental narrator of an era that is rendered both kinder and infinitely less forgiving than our own."--Ellah Allfrey, NPR Books
"Woodrell captures the run-down, put-upon underbelly of America better than anyone, because he knows it better than anyone."--Benjamin Percy, Esquire.com
"The Maid's Version will sweep readers away."--Bob Minzesheimer, USA Today
"A distinctive blend of lush metaphor and brisk storytelling."--Laura Miller, Salon
"In fewer than 200 pages, but with a richness of theme and character worthy of the weightiest Victorian novel, Woodrell brings West Table to life in the varied experiences of its sons and daughters. "--Wendy Smith, Washington Post
"Woodrell's language echoes melodically with the vernacular of the Ozarks, traces of folk song, the cadences of the Bible. Sometimes he offers, seemingly with little effort, as if from a bottomless repository, pithy similes. This of Alma: "grief has chomped on her like wolves do a calf". At other times, sentences leisurely unspool: "The Missouri river floated sixty yards from the street, and there was a small crotchety tavern on the corner." [Woodrell] belongs within a great, predominantly male tradition of American writing that stretches back to Mark Twain and runs on through Willa Cather, William Faulkner, James Dickey, Larry McMurtry to Cormac McCarthy. From the vantage of their willed exile they have produced, down the generations, some of their country's finest fiction and poetry."—Peter Pierce, the Australian