The Maid’s Version

Thoughts tmvbydw The Maid’s Version by Daniel Woodrell, Little,Brown and Company 2013,  167 pages, eBook (Kindle on iPad)

For The Bookies, my IRL Book Club

FIRST Sentence: “She frightened me at every dawn the summer I stayed with her.”

What’s is ABOUT: A convoluted tale based on rumors and innuendos and oral histories of what happened in 1929 when a small Missouri town dance hall building exploded. This story is mostly told by a grandson of Alma, the maid, whose sister died that day.

What’s GOOD:  I mention Missouri because it is one of my favorite states in the US of A; I lived and worked there many years. I love being able to create the scenery in my mind as I read. I’ve been there, I know it, I know these people (well, SOME of them, but not all of them!)  I had similar feelings of affection when I read Gone Girl and Dark Places by Gillian Flynn, another skilled author from Missouri who crafts a great setting.

What’s NOT so good: There are so many sentences that had to be reread and dissected! I almost ALMOST got the impression this author was trying hard to be literary.  Perhaps he succeeds. I know that his style – he has a definite style – will put people off. On the other hand, there are plenty of well crafted sentences and paragraphs and scenes, so I do think he deserves the many accolades he has received. But, it might be a case of “Either you like it or you don’t.” I’m somewhere in the middle.

Here’s one of those sentences that had be scratching my head and saying it out loud to feel it in my mouth to see if it made any sense:

“Fifteen years later, Vance Bullington, who’d lost a boy and a girl at the Arbor, did on what thought was his deathbed but wasn’t quite say to his surviving daughter, Billie, “That preacher with the big mouth? In nineteen and thirty-one? I’m who done for him.”

It just took me a few attempts to understand it. Sure, some of it is dialect. There were more but I didn’t note them to find them again.

And some of my “Huh?” moments were the sayings:

“Times there ain’t nothin’ for it, but a body must hie to a toothache tree and scrape hisself a cure.”

I don’t know what that means. Not from my imaginations and not from context.

Or… What the heck does Emily Dickinson’s phrase “A wounded deer leaps highest.” mean?  That someone such as Alma was so hurt, she had to lash out and just go crazy with her grief? Does that make sense?

FINAL thoughts – So other than a bit more heavy on the “literary” (there were symbols!*), the story was interesting. It kept my interest. Some phrases really were beautifully crafted. A few chuckle-worthy scenes, one heart-warming one, and a few very sad. A tale of love and misunderstandings, of scraping by and never getting ahead, of guilt and being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But what did it mean? I don’t know. Some people suck and some people don’t and the the rewards and punishments never seem to go to the right people.

RATING:  Three slices of pie. Some kind of bourbon soaked fig pie, maybe? Definitely a dry fruity kind of pie, double crusted.

“He liked to taunt folks just a bit when pie-eyed.”



* SYMBOLISM – woo hoo!!   The color blue and Alma’s hair!  What these mean, I really haven’t devoted too much thought to, though.


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14 thoughts on “The Maid’s Version

  1. I didn’t know you had Missouri connections! That’s where I grew up–in fact, the movie of Gone, Girl is being filmed in my home town, Cape Girardeau.
    The problem with that long sentence about his deathbed is the way the word “did” doesn’t work as a verb.
    Could the “toothache tree” be a willow? You know, willow bark works like aspirin.

    1. Oh, I’m sure we’ve discussed Cape Girardeau… I lived in Jeff City, Sedalia, Lee’s Summit and worked in Columbia, Boonville. Fished all over the lakes region and traveled St.Joe to Poplar Bluff for work. Beautiful state.

      Didn’t know about the willow tree. Maybe?

    1. It’s ponderable! I think it has its merits. One of my English teacher friends really disliked it, however. I don’t know if that is relevant or not. (Um, yea, I always want to assume that English teachers are high-minded literary smarty-pants, maybe? snobs? I dunno…)

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