By the acclaimed author of Winter's Bone, the dark, glittering story of two families divided by class and linked by a mysterious tragedy.
In 1929, an explosion at a dance hall in a Missouri town killed 42 people. Who was to blame? Mobsters from St. Louis? Embittered gypsies? The preacher who railed against the loose morals of the waltzing couples? Or could it have been a colossal accident?
Alma Dunahew, whose scandalous younger sister was among the dead, believes she knows the answer - and that its roots lie in a dangerous love affair. But no one will listen to a woman from the wrong side of the tracks. Maid to a prominent citizen, wife of a hopeless alcoholic, her dogged pursuit of justice makes her an outcast and causes a long-standing rift with her own son. It is only decades later that her grandson listens to her account and unearths the sorry truth.
With remarkable economy, Daniel Woodrell tells a richly layered story of passion, betrayal and vengeance and two families at opposite ends of the social scale connected down the generations by a festering secret. This is a stunning novel by a writer hailed by Roddy Doyle as 'one of the world's greatest novelists'.
Daniel Woodrell is the American writer we increasingly look to for the latest urgent news on the American soul. The Maid's Version is a beautiful engine of a novel, whose cogs were not entirely made by human agency, one might hazard to say. As regards the level of reading pleasure, the highest. As regards the level of literary achievement, the highest. - Sebastian Barry, author of On Canaan's Side
The Maid's Version is stunning. Daniel Woodrell writes flowing, cataclysmic prose with the irresistible aura of fate about it. - Sam Shepard
Under the grisly, seductive, colloquial tone is a very unusual thing - a communitarian novel: a novel concerned with how we live - and sometimes die - together, how we share experiences through the rituals of speaking and writing, because that is the fundamental spirit and purpose of language. - Sarah Hall, Guardian
Blends the folkloric with Southern gothic, historical recapitulation with fictional investigative journalism, all suffused in his matchless tenderness of feeling . . . In The Maid's Version, the oral and the poetic tangle and splice. Alma and Ruby are illiterate: the grandson's narration raises their tongue to occasional elegiac beauty. - Stevie Davies, Independent
Skilfully interweaving two narratives, he gradually reveals the truth about a love affair in 1920s Missouri and an explosion in a dance hall that killed dozens of people. Woodrell's unique prose - laconic and yet . . . possessed of an offbeat lyricism all its own - is well suited to a story reminiscent of a folk tale passed down through the generations. - Nick Rennison, The Sunday Times
Woodrell orchestrates a captivating, almost operatic narrative of how tragedy and grief can transform places and people . . . With an economical brilliance similar to that of Denis Johnson . . . Woodrell delivers a stunning story of one small town, and all of its profound complexities and opaque mysteries. - New York Times Book Review
Just 164 pages. But Woodrell can pack more story, truth and human emotion into that space than most writers can in three times the pages . . . The Maid's Version is a superbly textured novel . . . Readers will be reminded once again why critics so often compare him to William Faulkner and Cormac McCarthy. - Bruce DeSilva, Associated Press
Woodrell's distinctive qualities are his very puckish humour and the way he drapes extravagantly writerly prose on the bones of a ferociously exciting whodunit . . . In Daniel Woodrell's West Table, neighbours and hearts come as crooked as can be and are all the more fascinating - and yes, loveable - for that. - Sam Leith, Literary Review
Daniel Woodrell was born in the Missouri Ozarks, where he still lives. He left school and enlisted in the Marines the week he turned seventeen, and received his BA at the age of twenty-seven. He also has an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. He is the author of eight novels including Winter's Bone, the film of which was nominated for four Oscars in 2011, Woe to Live On, the basis for the film Ride with the Devil directed by Ang Lee, and Tomato Red, which won the PEN West Award for fiction in 1999. Five of his novels have been selected as New York Times Notable Books of the year. His most recent novel was The Maid's Version, published by Sceptre in 2013.