MysteryPeople Pick for September: The Maid’s Version by Daniel Woodrell
Daniel Woodrell has become one of the saviors of American literature. While many authors have gone the route of exploring the angst of the middle class, Woodrell finds drama in the marginalized, like his predecessors Steinbeck and Faulkner. His latest, The Maid’s Version, looks at the social strata tied together by a mysterious explosion at a barn dance that killed and maimed many in an Ozark town in 1929.
The maid is Alma Dunahew, a woman whose hair “is as long as her story”. Much of that story is about what actually happened on that tragic night that took her sister. Not knowing the whole story and not wanting to, the town has shunned her. After her death, it’s her grandson who tells it.
The tale moves back and forth in time using snippets of the townspeople’s biographies from before and after the explosion. The rich prose weaves these fractured pieces into a mosaic of the town, giving us the truth of what happened. It’s difficult to use the term “resolution” since the book leaves you with a haunting feeling.
It is the richness of Woodrell’s style that holds the books together and gives it it’s resonance. By giving us glimpses of the townspeople from servants to bankers, lawmen to St. Louis gangsters, we get a unique and complete look at West Table, Missouri and the explosion that scarred it. In just over a hundred and sixty pages, Woodrell delves into love, class, community, and tragedy with a feeling both sweeping and personal. Further proof that Daniel Woodrell is one of the American novel’s modern masters.
Copies of The Maid’s Version are available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.