The Maid's Version

The Maid's Version

A Novel

Book - 2013
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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.
Publisher: New York :, Little, Brown and Co.,, 2013
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780316205856
Branch Call Number: FIC WOODR D

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DBRL_IdaF Feb 12, 2017

The Maid's Version is fiction based on a true event. In 1928, a dance hall in West Plains, Missouri mysteriously blew up as a dance was in progress, killing dozens of people and leaving many others with crippling injuries, a huge loss for a small town. The investigation never resolved what happened, though people speculate to this day.

The town in this version is called West Table and the conflagration takes place in 1929. Woodrell is a native of the area, so his descriptions and characters are spot on. His narrator is Alek Dunahew, recounting what he heard from his grandmother, Alma, the summer he was twelve.

Alma worked as a maid for one of the wealthiest families in town. Her sister, Ruby, was killed in the explosion. Alma believed she had pieced together what happened and who was involved, but good luck getting anyone to listen to the illiterate wife of the town drunk, especially when she was casting aspersions on the rich and powerful.

The tales is recounted in the way family stories are told, not as a linear narrative, but in bits and pieces, with many digressions. Still, it all comes together in a surprisingly short page count.

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EmilyEm
Jan 26, 2016

How did the dance hall fire that killed and maimed many peopled in a small Missouri town in 1929 come to happen? No one was ever charged but that hasn't stopped years of speculation. Fast forward to the 1960s when a young boy visits his grandmother—once a maid in a prominent home—who just might have an answer she wants to pass on.
Woodrell’s novel is cleverly told in a voice that harkens to that earlier time in the Ozarks and with characters you’ll not soon forget. Very good.

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COURIER3
Jan 30, 2015

Poorly written by local author.
Jumped our too much. Did not finish it.

JCLBrianB Oct 22, 2014

Woodrell does an admirable job painting realistic, detailed, and vibrant characters. This novel about a town ripped apart by tragedy, and the effect this tragedy has on the town throughout multiple generations, echoes former greats like "Winesburg, Ohio" and "The Scarlet Letter." I personally found the non-linear chronology sometimes hard to follow, but it does help give a sense of the ripple through time that our actions can cause.

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finn75
May 18, 2014

Small town characters dissected by one of the elderly residents of the town. She is still grieving and bitter after the death of her sister in a town tradgedy that isn't explained until the very end. Clever.

1
1luckylemon
Feb 13, 2014

I really enjoy Woodrell's language and descriptive voice but this jumped around a lot through time periods so I had to read closely. I had a hard time empathizing with the characters and struggled to find anyone to root for because of the non linear telling. Thank goodness it was brief otherwise I may not have finished it.

c
confidential_me
Feb 01, 2014

It was an interesting story, but the writing style was less linear than I'm used to and that made it a little confusing. Actually though, thinking about talking to older relatives about things that happened in their pasts, they do sometimes retell them in a fashion similar to the way the author has written. "Let me see, it was the spring... and then 'so and so' ...[insert whole history of 'so-and-so' before returning to event retelling]...and then ... and that's what happened. " But I wasn't thinking about that while reading the book. Still, I would have followed it a little more easily if it had been more chronological.

ChristchurchLib Dec 16, 2013

"A maid for a prominent family in Missouri chases down justice after her younger sister is one of 42 people killed at a mysterious explosion at a local dance hall in this new novel from the author of Winter's Bone." Fiction A to Z December 2013 newsletter http://www.nextreads.com/Display2.aspx?SID=5acc8fc1-4e91-4ebe-906d-f8fc5e82a8e0&N=711899

j
JimmyGman
Nov 04, 2013

Slow start...gave up. Maybe someone out there likes boring short novels. Try this one.

u
uncommonreader
Oct 07, 2013

In this short novel, the narrator's grandmother tells the story of a deadly fire in 1929 and who might have been responsible for it. The many vignettes of some of the victims breaks up the narrative, but nevertheless the writing is wonderful.

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calistarm
Jun 05, 2015

Preacher Willard accepted the ten commandments as a halfhearted start but kept adding amendments until the number of sins he couldn't countenance was beyond memorization. He appeared to be adding new ones shaped to your own reported shortcomings until you were tailored appropriately for a residence in hell, and nowhere else, but a complete and prostrate begging of God and an increase tithe might, just might, earn you one more chance at heaven, who knows, give it a try, it's only money.

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