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The Maid's Versionby Daniel Woodrell
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"Woodrell's (Winter's Bone) evocative, lyrical ninth novel is deceptively brief and packs a shimmering, resonant, literary punch. In a grand 'gesture of reconciliation' from his father, young Alek is sent to West Table, Mo., to spend the summer of 1965 with his grandmother, Alma Dunahew, a hardworking maid to a wealthy local. The bad blood between Alek's father and Alma stems from her opinion of what transpired just before the 1929 Arbor Dance Hall explosion, a tragedy that claimed her outspoken sister Ruby and 41 others. Who was responsible? Gypsies who threatened the townsfolk? The preacher who believed 'evil music, evil feet' deserved to be silenced forever? Or was it Ruby's controversial new (married) beau? Sections about some of those who perished fall between chapters detailing an engaging yarn of hidden secrets, but also one that fast-forwards decades to find an adult Alek addressing a memorial vigil, finally getting the chance to talk about what Alma confided to her grandson during the pivotal summer they spent together. From an economy of poetic prose springs forth an emotionally volcanic story of family, justice, and the everlasting power of the truth. Agent: Ellen Levine, Trident Media Group. (Sept. 3)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Five of Daniel Woodrell's eight published novels were 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.
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