Don't be put off by the brevity of this book, for it is one of the best books you will read this year. Using the horrific explosion at a dance hall in the small Ozark town of West Table in the 1930's, Woodrell explores the impact on the town, on the survivors, and especially on his grandmother Alma. The Maid's Version demands a careful read--Woodrell's sentences are as beautiful, as perfect as any you will encounter.
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.
Editors' Choice, Times Book Review A Best Book of 2013, Slate A Best Book of 2013, Washington Post An NPR 2013 "Great Read" Winner of the 2014 Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize for Fiction A Top Five Book of the Year, Kansas City Star A Best Book of 2013, St. Louis Post Dispatch Kirkus Reviews selection for the Best Books of 2013 A Best Book of 2013, Capital Times (Madison, Wis.) An Irish Times Book of the Year An Irish Mail on Sunday Book of the Year A Favorite Book of 2013, National Post (Canada) One of Amazon's Top 10 Best Books of the Month An Amazon Best Book of the Year A Best Work of Fiction in 2013, Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal
"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
"You might have seen Jennifer Lawrence's breakout role in Winter's Bone, but did you know the movie is based on a novel by the audaciously talented Woodrell? The author of nine widely-praised novels is sometimes described as a master of Ozark noir, but his gripping narratives and pitch-perfect language transcend genre."—Reader's Digest, "23 Contemporary Writers You Should Have Read by Now"
"The Maid's Version is able to tell a community's history in stunning second-, third-, and even fourth-hand recollection."—Mesha Maren, LA Review of Books