Bookshots: 'The Maid's Version' by Daniel Woodrell

Bookshots: 'The Maid's Version' by Daniel Woodrell

Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review


The Maid's Version

Who wrote it?

Daniel Woodrell, the authoritative voice of Ozarks noir.

Plot in a box:

Woodrell’s prose is as haunting and evocative as ever, drifting through cobwebby memories and innuendos to paint a picture that is vivid, but never quite in focus.

A young boy processes his grandmother's version of a catastrophic event in West Table, Missouri.

Invent a new title for this book:

How I Learned to Start Worrying and Question the Bomb

Read this if you liked: 

Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell, As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

Meet the book's lead:

Alek Dunahew, the soft-spoken, but inquisitive termination of the Dunahew bloodline

Said lead would be portrayed in a movie by:

Haley Joel Osment, 10 years ago.

Setting: Would you want to live here?

Doubtful, for so many reasons. Woodrell's Ozarks are no picnic, and a place where so many people run screaming from the truth doesn't sound great for a writer.

What was your favorite sentence?

He had intended to become a murderer this night but recoiled when engaged in the act, repulsed by the feeling in his hands and the forlorn grunts from his own chest and the shock delivered him by Glencross's abject acceptance of the assault.

The Verdict: 

Woodrell’s prose is as haunting and evocative as ever, drifting through cobwebby memories and innuendos to paint a picture that is vivid, but never quite in focus. The scattered nature of the narrative creates a dissonance between what the reader knows and the objective circumstances of the tragedy in question. This underlines the main supposition of The Maid’s Version: when the majority of a community is dependent on the powerful, those who speak truth to power are often viewed as subversives, if not something worse entirely. By that token, the intrinsic value of the truth is brought into question. Time and again, the cold hard facts of the dance hall explosion, including an illicit affair between a wealthy banker and one of the victims, are turned aside in favor of the greater good; by those involved, by the people of the town, and by Alma’s own son. As Alek processes the version of events told by his grandmother, the reader is invited to ask themselves difficult questions about ethics and morality in desperate times. By the end of the book’s brief 164 pages, Woodrell has made no proclamations, and interestingly enough, relied solely on the objective facts of the story to examine a deeper issue that is maddeningly vague, and slips through the fingers of everyone that tries to grab hold of it.

The Maid’s Version is certainly a dark chapter in Woodrell’s Ozarks ouvre, though the events are sorted through something of a nostalgic, sepia-toned filter, which makes for a less abruptly cold and haunting novel than 2006’s Winter’s Bone. However, fans of Woodrell’s unflinching and threadbare examination of life in the Ozarks will find much to love and even more to contemplate than ever. The Maid’s Version is a quick but fascinating read, presented as a half-remembered fever dream through the eyes of many, that never quite coalesces into something concrete or tangible. Make no mistakes, though: this is exactly how Woodrell wants it. Like the truth itself, The Maid’s Version is something that can be felt deep in the bones, but never quite explained.

Get The Maid's Version at Bookshop or Amazon

John Jarzemsky

Review by John Jarzemsky

John is a freelance writer who has been with LitReactor since the days of its halcyon youth. You can check out John's blog, the poorly titled Super Roller Disco Monkey Hullabaloo!, for other reviews, random musings, and ill-thought out rants. He was recently published in Bushwick Nightz, a collection of short stories about the Brooklyn neighborhood in which he resides.

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Brian McGackin's picture
Brian McGackin from NJ/LA is reading Between the World and Me September 11, 2013 - 11:58am

You had me at "Ozarks noir."

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading Library Books September 11, 2013 - 1:35pm

Loved the film adaptation of Winter's Bone. Wanted to read that for a while. This sounds great, too. I like the unreliable nature of the narrative.

Tom1960's picture
Tom1960 from Athens, Georgia is reading Blindness by Jose Saramago September 11, 2013 - 1:41pm

Yet another book and author to put on my 'to read' list.  This column rocks!

Cath Murphy's picture
Cath Murphy from UK is reading Find out on the Unpr!ntable podcast September 12, 2013 - 4:25am

Comparisons to Faulkner always get my attention. But are they justified? Now I have to read the book, to find out...

*eyes reading pile* *gnashes teeth*

Rob's picture
Class Director
Rob from New York City is reading at a fast enough pace it would be cumbersome to update this September 12, 2013 - 7:24am

I'm actually halfway through Winter's Bone right now and it's fantastic. May pick up this book sooner rather than later... 

Ryan Peverly's picture
Ryan Peverly from Ohio is reading The AEgypt Cycle by John Crowley September 12, 2013 - 5:52pm

Dammit, my first thought was "You had me at Ozarks noir." 

Fucking Brian...

Awesome review, though, John.

But fucking Brian...

Richard's picture
Richard from St. Louis is reading various anthologies October 8, 2013 - 11:00am

man, this looks so good. i'll have to pick this one up, too.