Review: The Maid’s Version by Daniel Woodrell

The Maid’s Version: A Novel by Daniel Woodrell
Little, Brown and Company; First Edition edition: September 2013

Description (from Amazon)

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 citizen and his 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, she 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.

My Review (3 Stars: Liked it!)

In The Maid’s VersionDaniel Woodrell’s writing style is distinctly different from other authors.  I wondered at first if is he was using dialect specific to The Ozarks and the time frame of the story or if his writing was poetic in some fashion.  Then I read, on the back cover of the book, comments about a previous book by Daniel Woodrell, Winter’s Bone (2006), also placed in The Ozarks which indicates the same style.

Winter’s Bone

“Woodrell’s novels tap a ferocious, ancient manner of storytelling, shrewdly combining a poet’s vocabulary with the vivid, old-fashioned vernacular of the backwoods.”

— ADAM WOOG, Seattle Times

“If William Faulkner lived in the Ozark Mountains today and wrote short, powerful novels set in that little-understood, much maligned swath of rural America, he might sound a lot like Daniel Woodrell.”

— DENISE HAMILTON, Los Angeles Times Book Review

“Woodrell’s Old Testament prose and blunt vision have a chilly timelessness that suggests this novel will speak to readers as long as there are readers.”

— DAVID BOWMAN, New York Times Book Review

The Maid’s Version is told in short clips of what was going on during the time of the great dance hall explosion in 1929.  It is pieced together very well.  The book is only 164 pages short.  It spans different generations and at times gets a little confusing, but the gist of the story is not lost.  Looking back, it is amazing how much story telling the author packs into this short novel.

8 thoughts on “Review: The Maid’s Version by Daniel Woodrell”

  1. The story itself really intrigues me. but I’m not sure about the writing style. I’m usually drawn to a simple writing style with a soothing rhythm. I’m worried this might be too flowery for me? I’d like to read a couple more reviews.


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