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The Maid's Version

3.35  ·  Rating details ·  6,293 ratings  ·  1,024 reviews
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 rai ...more
Hardcover, 164 pages
Published September 3rd 2013 by Little, Brown and Company (first published 2013)
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Jeremy I much prefer Woodrell to Faulkner. Faulkner was so pleased with the sound of his own voice, that his books often suffocate under the weight of his…moreI much prefer Woodrell to Faulkner. Faulkner was so pleased with the sound of his own voice, that his books often suffocate under the weight of his over-wrought prose. Woodrell, while still writing gorgeous, plain-spoken prose, doesn't draw attention to himself - leaving his characters and their plights front stage center.(less)

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Jun 18, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Have to read a whole goddam novel about baseball, only it's not really about baseball, see, it's about sad-assed stuff I already know all I need to know about, but there will be a test."

and that's the foundation of it, right? woodrell's characters inhabit their world, and we are all just tourists, reading it to be entertained by his stories of these resolute downtrodden folks in their sad-assed circumstances, while for them, it is just life. and they have already been tested. we require the win
Jan 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
The thing about small towns and secrets is that usually there aren’t really that many secrets; there are just unpleasant things that aren’t discussed openly.

West Table, Missouri, has one of these uncomfortable topics after an explosion destroyed a dance hall and killed dozens of people in 1929. There is no shortage of rumors about various causes of the disaster, but that’s just the buzz disguising the real story. Listen carefully enough and the underlying truth is there, but most of the locals w
Oct 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone
Recommended to Lawyer by: If Woodrell writes it, I read it.
The Maid's Version: Daniel Woodrell's Change of Direction

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Donald Woodrell, Off Square Books, Oxford, Ms., September 11, 2013

It has been seven years since Daniel Woodrell wrote his last novel, Winter's Bone. Only the small anthology of short stories, The Outlaw Album: Stories appeared after Woodrell reaped the acclaim that came with the release of the movie, "Winter's Bone."

My wife and I traveled to Oxford, Ms., to one of my favorite destinations, Square Books, on September 11, 2013, to hear Dani
Jun 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014-reads
Daniel Woodrell, as usual, proves that you don't need to write a doorstopper-sized sprawling flowery epic to paint a vivid picture of an entire community and bring it to life in all its drama, secrets, heartbreaks and pain.

In crisp economical prose, in the short 170 or so pages Woodrell brings us a story of the entire town through a tragedy the community experienced in the late 1920s, a dance hall explosion that remains unsolved decades later:
"...Her personal account of the Arbor Dance Hall exp
Bill  Kerwin
Dec 13, 2013 rated it really liked it

Woodrell has moved beyond the confines of hillbilly noir. His prose is so economical, his ability to delineate a character or describe an action so efficient, that "The Maid's Version" can contain all the vivid settings, complex characters, illuminating subplots and pleasant digressions of an old fashioned five hundred page novel, all in the course of 45,000 words.

He is a master of compressed, oblique story-telling, and the tale he tells is a good one, showing what destructive forces can be unl
Joe Valdez
Aug 05, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: mystery-suspense
The Maid's Version is a novella that if judged by any paragraph would seem to be a virtuoso mystery, overflowing with Ozarks detail, Jazz Age atmosphere and brooding mood. Published in 2013 as Daniel Woodrell's follow-up to the remarkable Winter's Bone, this effort feels like it was constructed of leftovers, the tragedy of Ree Dolly's great-great grandmother perhaps, and with no strong central character or organizing detail comes out to an attractive mess. Every reader reaches a point where they ...more
Sep 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
This fulfills my growing fandom over Woodrell’s writing. With two favorable reads to lead me on (“Winter’s Bone” and “Woe to Live On”), I welcome again his crisp prose, ear for regional dialog, and affinity for a plot that puts questing personalities into challenges of morality and courage. As with the earlier two, I appreciate the rural places of the Missouri Ozarks region he portrays so vividly based on having grown up nearby in the rural Oklahoma Ozark fringes. I can’t yet speak to Woodrell’s ...more
Sep 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
What an extraordinary novella this is! It's the story of an old woman telling her grandson about what she knows of a horrific event that happened decades ago. It's also the story a small town in Missouri and how it deals with a tragedy. It also has a love story.

That Woodrell has accomplished all of that in 164 pages is impressive. And with such beautiful prose! This is my first Woodrell book, but it won't be my last.

The story opens with Alma DeGeer Dunahew sharing what she knows about a 1929 exp
Feb 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
Trains have haunted the nights in West Table since 1883 and disrupt sleep and taunt those awakened. The trains beating past towards the fabled beyond, the sound of each wheel-thump singing, 'You're going nowhere, you're going nowhere', and these wheels are, they are, they are going far from where you lie listening in your smallness and will still lie small at dawn after they are gone from hearing, rolling on singing along twin rails over the next hill and down and up over the next onward to tho ...more
Oct 01, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2013-reads
It took some time for me to settle into the rhythm of this book. When I began to read I found the structure to be awkward and unsettled. This is one of those stories that requires concentration since the timeline of events jumps around rather than unfold in a linear structure -- so if you do not enjoy books that forgo the linear, then I can see a great struggle as you read this.

The Maid’s Version is the story of a woman named Alma, who has lost her sister in a tragic accident when the town's dan
Sep 23, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2013
There were two aspects to this novella that frustrated me: the structure and the characters. The structure was very choppy and lacked a good flow. I'm all about a non-linear story, but this one, in my opinion, wasn't crafted well. Toss into that the many characters and it was a jumble. The "side chapters" with stories about those in the dance hall - were those added to make me feel worse about the disaster of the explosion at the dance hall? Ironically, I felt those little tossed in stories were ...more
John Martin
Feb 04, 2017 rated it liked it
I don't want to burden you with all my character flaws, but there is one that's relevant for my review of this book. I hate doing jigsaw puzzles. That's how this book came across to me. I really loved Winter's Bone, and that certainly keeps the reader guessing but I found that to be a more linear story. This one does all come together nicely but it did seem to jump around. Some of the writing is exquisite. The author constructs some truly beautiful sentences. I'd like to say this is a very long ...more
James Thane
Oct 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: daniel-woodrell
This is another excellent book from Daniel Woodrell, who returns with his first novel since Winter's Bone in 2006.

In 1928, the tiny town of West Table, Missouri, was shattered by the explosion of the Arbor Dance Hall. Forty-two of the town's residents were killed in the explosion and in the fire that followed; dozens of others were injured. But although many explanations for the tragedy were put forward, the guilty party or parties were never identified and prosecuted.

Some townspeople blamed lo
Oct 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Goddamn, Daniel Woodrell is great. I don't know if I've felt more pleasure reading the last few years thn when delving into Woodrell's work. I hesitate to say reading Woodrell is fun, although it is, but reading Woodrell is more than fun. Reading The Maid's Version was, for me, like watching that movie you ached to see for months and, when you finally sit in the theater that first night, it's as good if not better than expected. I would wish the novel lengthier than it 164 pages but I sensed the ...more
Terry Brooks
Oct 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Many of you may remember a movie called Winter's Bone, if only for the fact that it was Jennifer Lawrence's first big role. What you might not know is that first it was a book by a writer named Daniel Woodrell. His latest book, just out, is called The Maid's Version. It is a story that centers on an explosion and fire at a dance hall that killed more than forty people and still resonates in the history of the town. The person responsible was never caught - but was perhaps known. A mystery, a ser ...more
Jan 15, 2014 rated it it was ok
I have mixed feelings. I loved the subject matter but the execution was very poor. This read like an unfinished creative writing exercise with vignettes of characters just muddled together with no flow or order. Very disorganized and confusing at times. It is sad because there was great promise with the plot and characters to develop into an engaging book. Disappointed.

Rating - 2 Stars ("It was okay") - nothing special at all.
"Folks said, 'Grief has chomped on her like wolves do a calf.'" Alma Dunahew's sister and 41 other people died in the 1929 Arbor Dance Hall explosion in West Table, Missouri. When her grandson Alek visits her one summer, Alma spends a portion of each day telling him about the townspeople of the small town in the Ozarks, and about the fire that claimed so many lives. Years later, Alek remembers his grandmother's tale after attending a memorial service for the victims. Alma refused to cut her hair ...more
Nov 17, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bis vor Kurzem hatte ich noch nie von den Ozarks gehört. Dann sah ich die Netflix-Serie Ozark (nicht brillant, aber okay) und recherchierte erst einmal wo diese Gegend legt.

Nun bin ich über Daniel Woodrell gestolpert, eigentlich nur weil er bei dem von mir sehr geschätzten Liebeskind Verlag veröffentlicht wird. Und Woodrell hat es sich wohl zur Aufgabe gemacht die Trostlosigkeit dieser Region, in der Korruption, Armut und Verkommenheit an der Tagesordnung sind, zu beschreiben. White Trash ist da
Jul 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Suzanne by: Winter's Bone
She spooked me awake daily that whole summer of my twelfth year, me awaking to see her with the dawn at her back, springs squeaking faintly, while a bone-handled brush slid along a length of hair that belonged in a fairy tale of some sort, and maybe not the happy kind. Her name was Alma and she did not care to be called Grandma or Mamaw, and might loose a slap if addressed as Granny. She was lonely, old and proud, and I’d been sent from the river town near St. Louis by my dad as a gesture of re ...more
Jul 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is my first book by this author which I picked up in the library when his book Winter's Bone(brought to my attention by the recent movie starring Jennifer Lawrence) was not available. I enjoyed this one very much indeed. It is a fictionalized account of a real event - an explosion in a Missouri dance hall in 1929 which killed 42 people. It is beautifully written with many splendid characters and depicting so well the way people lived in a small town in those times. It is not a long book, ju ...more
Bonnie Brody
Sep 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Maid's Version by Daniel Woodrell is a small book but reads like a tome, with such literate and beautiful imagery that I was enthralled. The book centers around the mystery of the explosion at Arbor Dance Hall in 1929. The explosion killed 42 people, many unrecognizable in death with their bodies broken up or burned beyond recognition. Alma Dunahew lost her sister Ruby in the explosion and for years has been trying to discover the answer to what happened. Those years have been hard on her wi ...more
Jun 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone Who Enjoys Reading
Recommended to Still by: I Buy All Daniel Woodrell Novels
This is a Southern Gothic Mystery set in West Table, Missouri during the Depression.

It's a haunting, poignant tale told in flashback by a grandmother to her 12 year old grandson -the narrator- concerning a mysterious explosion and fire that occurred in a crowded dance hall in 1929 killing 42 and maiming dozens.

Daniel Woodrell has never let me down. His short stories and his novels have always been memorable to me but this one is possibly his most powerful work since The Death of Sweet Mister or
Clif Hostetler
Feb 18, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel
For a book about an explosion at a dance hall that killed forty-two people, the narrative contains little action. The action that does immerge is pinched between extensive descriptions of time, place and past history.

The book conveys a sense of foreboding mystery as it describes hard-edged characters living in the 1929 to 30s era in a small town located in Ozark Country of southern Missouri. The story explores the politics, corruption and repression of legal investigations while viewed from the
Jul 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is from my Best Books of the Month review:
From the opening line--"She frightened me at every dawn that summer..."--Daniel Woodrell sets a spooky tone in his ninth novel (his first since Winter's Bone). Based on a true story, this slim volume reimagines the horrific night when dozens were killed in a mysterious explosion at an Ozarks dance hall, the night "all hell came callin'." Years later, in the summer of 1965, our narrator's grandmother tells him her version of that night’s
Nicola Mansfield
Nov 26, 2013 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: readers of earlier Woodrell works
There is no sense in me being another reviewer to go on and on about how wonderful a writer Daniel Woodrell is; he just simply is; brilliant and unlike any other modern author. This is a short book with a simple plot of an old lady retelling an horrific story from the past to her 12-year-old grandson one summer when he stays with her for the first time. The main narrator is the grandson, grown up, but the book uses one of my favourite devices and that is to have a variety of narrators tell the s ...more
Jul 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
Daniel Woodrell's writing is something special. Spare, yet rich beyond words. I really liked the parallel between old Alma's failing, sputtering mind and the manner in which the reader is gently pulled back and forth between time frames and individuals. One reviewer compared it to the squares of a quilt being pieced together to form a complete cover. That's it in a nutshell.

Although I did not like this one as much as Winter's Bone, it is a worthy addition to this author's repertoire.
Zachary F.
Daniel Woodrell is a bit of an icon among bookish people where I come from. There aren't many widely-read novelists who hail from (and write about) the Missouri Ozarks, and there are even fewer of them successful enough to have Jennifer Lawrence-led film adaptations made of their work, so it's natural enough that Ozarkians cherish him. I've attended a Q&A with Woodrell, I've driven through his hometown countless times, I've seen the aforementioned Jennifer Lawrence film, and I've had more th ...more
Sep 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
The Maid's Version by Daniel Woodrell is one of those quiet little novels of Americana that slowly lift the veil off the portrait of small town America by Norman Rockwell to show the beating dead heart of Norman Bates lying beneath it. Which is why Woodrell should be a freakin' national treasure.

"...Ruby DeGeer didn't mind breaking hearts, but she liked them to shatter coolly, with no ugly scenes of departure where an arm got twisted behind her back by a crying man, or her many failings and damp
Mar 06, 2014 rated it it was ok
The writing is exemplary, the story drab. Woodrell has a way with words that takes the readers breath away and this book is no different. However, the tale he so delicately constructs feels padded and perhaps more suited to a shorter form. There were far too many moments where my mind tended to drift; particularly those chapters dedicated to the backstory of some the victims of the dance hall fire in 1929. The telling of events by maid Alma to her grandson reads laden with gossip and scandal, al ...more
Diane Barnes
Aug 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This was a most powerful book, top-notch storytelling. Woodrell is an author that sets the scene, gets out of the way, and let's his characters tell the story. 178 pages of absolutely incredible writing, with not one wasted word. Winter's Bone was the first book of his that I read, and I got this one through a Goodreads giveaway. I now feel a need to read all his other books because this guy has an incredible talent. Don't let the size of this book fool you, there's a lot of story packed into th ...more
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21st Century Lite...: The Maid's Version - Whole Book Discussion [Spoilers Allowed] (December 2014) 35 59 Jan 01, 2015 09:45AM  
21st Century Lite...: December 2014 Moderator Pick 1 48 Nov 03, 2014 09:37PM  
Maid's Version for teenager 3 31 Sep 27, 2014 11:42AM  
Chaos Reading: Daniel Woodrell 1 23 Jan 18, 2014 03:51AM  
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Growing up in Missouri, seventy miles downriver from Hannibal, Mark Twain was handed to me early on, first or second grade, and captivated me for years, and forever, I reckon. Robert Louis Stevenson had his seasons with me just before my teens and I love him yet. There are too many others to mention, I suppose, but feel compelled to bring up Hemingway, James Agee, Flannery O'Connor, John McGahern, ...more
“She took him to places inside a shaded room that he’d only dimly imagined might exist, and while there in sweaty reality he reclined like a pasha of lust, a man lost to squirts, sighs, fresh angles of entry and the enveloping stink, and to find this carnal enchantment for the first time at his age was to welcome a streaking of madness into his life—madness he prayed had no end now that it had begun.” 2 likes
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