I’m reading The Maid’s Version by Daniel Woodrell—a fictionalized account of a deadly dance hall explosion in West Table, Missouri in 1929. It’s a quietly powerful novel—a novella, really, but more densely packed with keen human insight, nuanced characters, and acute plotting than most 400 page books.
What are you reading?
I’m reading The Maid’s Version by Daniel Woodrell—a fictionalized account of a deadly dance hall explosion in West Table, Missouri in 1929. It’s a quietly powerful novel—a novella, really, but more densely packed with keen human insight, nuanced characters, and acute plotting than most 400 page books. The axis of Woodrell’s story is Alma, a maid whose beloved sister Ruby died in the fire. Through her recounting of the tragedy—the conspiracies that surround it and the lives that were lost—we come away with a masterful portrait of rural life in during the Depression, complete with its social, financial, and more grapplings. What drew you to the book? Well, first of all, Daniel Woodrell’s name on the cover! That pretty much sold it to me. I loved The Death of Sweet Mister and Winter’s Bone. Woodrell can conjure an entire lifetime in a few sentences without sacrificing nuance or clarity. What did you love about the book? In this age of flamboyantly dramatic thrillers, psychological and otherwise, the dextrous restraint of Woodrell’s story and the haunting poetics of his writing are a respite and revelation. Ivy Pochoda is the author of VISITATION STREET. “A crowd gathers on the corner of Visitation Street after the disappearance of two local girls—one of whom has washed up on shore, barely alive—and our narrator teases: “The story develops slowly.” The same can be said of Ivy Pochoda’s atmospheric debut, which is as much an ode to the ragged neighborhood of Red Hook, Brooklyn as it is a slow-burning mystery. At times I felt I was reading of some foreign or forgotten city, a moody and crumbling place in the shadow of Manhattan. While the damaged-goods characters are quite memorable—a woman spends her days “speaking” to her dead husband; a music teacher drinks to oblivion, haunted by his dead mother; an immigrant shop owner dreams of a better Red Hook—the star here is “the Hook.” One character describes it as “a neighborhood of ghosts,” where trash rolls like tumbleweed—hazy, smelly, noisy, blue collar, crime-ridden, yet full of heart and hope. Says one character, who wants to flee Red Hook in the boat his murdered father left him: “It’s not such a bad place … if you look under the surface.” The same can be said of Visitation Street, a deceptively literary tale that brings to mind its benefactor, Denis Lehane, who published the book under his new imprint.—Neal Thompson” Praise for VISITATION STREET: “A powerfully beautiful novel” - Marilyn Stasio, New York Times Book Review (New York Times Book Review) “A stunner of a literary thriller. Grade A-” -Entertainment Weekly (Entertainment Weekly) “Utterly transporting.”-People (People)