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The Wood Wife

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  3,237 ratings  ·  276 reviews
Leaving behind her fashionable West Coast life, Maggie Black comes to the Southwestern desert to pursue her passion and her dream. Her mentor, the acclaimed poet Davis Cooper, has mysteriously died in the canyons east of Tucson, bequeathing her his estate and the mystery of his life--and death.

Maggie is astonish by the power of this harsh but beautiful land and captivated
Paperback, 320 pages
Published May 2nd 2003 by Orb Books (first published October 1st 1996)
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Average rating 4.20  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,237 ratings  ·  276 reviews

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Kevin Kuhn
Aug 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
“The night, blue lapis. The mountain, onyx. Saguaro, verdigris with a cooper dish of moon. The wind rustles dry mesquite. A coyote howls. A star falls. And the night cracks me open, with beauty sharp and poignant as grief. The night cracks me open, like a geode, exposing the crystal veins of God.”

I read this story at the very end of August, and in Minnesota that is the beginning of fall. The temperatures are dropping, squirrels are busy hiding their caches, and some trees are starting to drop le
Book Riot Community
This is one of those wonderful, contemporary mythic novels that blurs the boundaries between reality and folklore. A writer inherits her favorite poet’s home in the middle of nowhere Arizona after he dies under mysterious circumstances. She discovers his wife’s fantastical artwork in a secret room, but when the landscape starts mirroring the art, the lines between reality and art blur. I loved the mix of folklore and art, and the setting is beautifully depicted.

— Margaret Kingsbury

Jan 28, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2021, library
Wonderful, imaginative and evocative fantasy. Set mostly in Tucson, it combines many mythologies and characters along with poetry and art into a beautiful, cohesive story. The novel starts with Maggie Black inheriting the property in the desert of her friend, the poet Davis Cooper although they have never met face to face. Straightaway the landscape becomes a character, the plants, the animals, the rocks and other formations. There is some mystery to how Cooper has died and Maggie sets about goi ...more
Feb 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
I am very fond of this book, in part because I think it is one of the few urban fantasies that include artists (and a description of their work) that makes me want to see the artwork described. I suspect it is because Windling is a painter as well as a writer, and she genuinely creates those works (even if not materially). I think she does this far better than de Lint, for example, who (though I really, really like his stories and many of his novels) peoples his writing with artists whose work I ...more
Mar 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of de Lint, lyrical urban fantasy
Enjoyed it very much. Mystical-based urban fantasy, or rater, rural fantasy, as it largely takes place in a remote area of Arizona. Although this book was enjoyable once I sat down and made some uninterrupted time for it, I found the writing occasionally sermonizing, such as when a character is making a point about wildlife being shot and poisoned under game laws, or bringing suburban housing values to rural settings. It's not that I don't agree with those values--I do--it's that it seemed to in ...more
Originally slated to be one of the four premier books in the Brian Froud's Faerielands series, when that was scrapped the two books that hadn't been released were published as stand-alone fantasies... and another cover artist was chosen. When the book was such a success it was again given a new cover, but the reprint wasn't nearly as pretty as the original Froud cover or the Boulet painting that was chosen.

The book itself was a delight to read--I like desert of Southern Arizona best of the four
Feb 18, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: status-borrowed
Poet Davis Cooper dies, leaving his home in the Tuscon mountains to Maggie Black, his friend and protégé. As she explores his home and the mysteries of his life and death, she begins to suspect that the magic that fills Cooper's poems is not allegory but rather reflects the reality of the desert mountains. Although well written and technically accomplished, exaggerated characters and a predictable plot render the book's magic flat. The Wood Wife may satisfy some readers, but I found it disappoin ...more
Mar 02, 2010 rated it liked it
Dreamers, cacti, wild pigs. Poets and musicians.

This is the kind of book that I could have really enjoyed as a much younger person. I think in my dreamy teens, it could easily have been my gospel. I can feel that stuff about my Appalachian woods, so I can believe it of someone else's desert. But now cynical old me, it just didn't catch me in my fur, it didn't drag me out onto that star spiral and take me away across time and the canyon sky. Once upon a time I would have lived and dreamed myself
Jul 10, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
I so wanted to rate this book more highly, and I thought I would until I passed the half-way point, and then, as others have said, it just fell apart. Unfortunately, the characters are probably the weakest aspect of this book. We are told who they are, not shown. If the author has to tell you that her main character is "special," then she probably isn't. Maggie is distant, flat, contrived, smug, conceited, and pretentious. The other characters are also two-dimensional. They all seem to be "types ...more
Apr 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone I meet
Recommended to Kerrie by: Can't remember
I read this book once a year and get something new out of it each time! For example, this past year I was pregnant & became a new mother, so I was particularly drawn to the stories of Anna Naverra (her paintings, like my poetry, being her children) & Maria Rosa (Fox's mother) this time. I often buy multiple copies to pass out to friends, family, even random strangers on the plane!

I picked up this book because I was/am trying to read as much of the early urban/mythic fantasy books as I can get my hands on.

I fell in love with Charles de Lint's Forests of the Heart early on, and after reading more of his works, decided to go for Terri Windling next, hoping for something similar in terms of both the mythic themes and the love of the desert. I was also interested in how much, if any, Windling's and de Lint's friendship may have influenced their writings.

There are may common
Suanne Laqueur
Sep 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
A poet leaves his Tucson house and all his work to an artist in California. She moves to Arizona, and through subsequent friendships and a romance, begins to discover the poet, his talented and disturbed wife, and the magic of the Arizona desert. Does life imitate art, or art life?

Fantastic and gripping, you can actually feel the heat of the desert sun on the pages.
This is good, but we just didn't connect all the way, me and this book. It probably didn't help that I thought the ex-husband was one of the most interesting characters. I don't think I was supposed to think that. ...more
Celia McMahon
Jan 25, 2021 rated it really liked it
**Thank you to Tor for sending me a copy of this book for review**

When I first heard this book was inspired by Brian Froud's paintings and drawings, I was immediately drawn in. I'd first come to know Froud when he worked with Jim Henson, and my love of him grew from there. Now, I am not a big art person, but when it comes to the weird and the mystical, I'm your girl. That's why I jumped at the chance to read this book.

Also, I adore magical realism.

Maggie Black inherits the estate of the decease
Oct 31, 2016 rated it liked it
OK. I liked this fine. Having said that, it felt a little...appropriative. Like, let's have a bunch of (white) transplants move to the desert and fall in love with its magic and beauty. Oh, and a few brown people for "local color" and to help the white people find their way.

The attempts to tie it to a world of existing artists--Henry Miller, Anais Nin, a barely-disguised Frida Kahlo, Brian Froud--didn't really add to the story. It's just name dropping and "realism". As for the argument that fair
Jan 05, 2019 rated it really liked it

(4.5) Terri Windling's urban-adjacent fantasy set in the desert mountains outside Tucson, Arizona fuses several favorite themes of mine into a compelling whole. The Rincon Mountains are a place where spirits watch over the land and humans may either live in peace or at odds with these timeless beings. Here, the blurry line between mortal life and the spirit world wends itself through the characters' lives in a beguiling, serpentine manner. The natural world is all-encompassing in its wild thrivi
Althea Ann
Winner of the Mythopoeic Award.

I really wish I hadn't read this so close to Charles DeLint's 'Memory and Dream'. It was written two years later (in 1996), and DeLint did a blurb for it, so I suppose he deserves credit - but the theme of this story is extremely similar. Both novels deal with the concept of creatures/spirits of myth and legend being given physical form through the work of contemporary artists - and the emotional angst and physical danger that this power can lead to.
However, I like
Nov 04, 2009 rated it liked it
This book started out very well. It was quite interesting and the descriptions of the Southwest are excellent. The main character is well realized. Crow is well done, though the other (human) characters don't seem quite as powerful, and only Tomas is truly interesting, since the others are fairly bland. Sometimes the POV seems a bit sloppy, but them's the breaks with an omniscient narrator.

My main problem with the book was all the hippyesque blabbermouthing about mysticism and art. The poetry is
Jun 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A terrific work of fantasy in a modern setting, drawing on vivid depictions of the landscape of the American southwest, subtly developed characters of real depth, and a dazzling imagination for surrealist art that blends seamlessly into the novel's reality.

I don't want to say too much more than that, really, but speaking of "seamless," I would note that the use of a poet and his poetry in a fictional context is hard to pull off without seeming painfully contrived. That it isn't -- that the poetr
Lori Cooper
Jun 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I've always wanted to see the desert and now I feel as if I have actually been there. Terri Windling does a magnificent job of describing the scenery in such detail that I feel I have to sweep desert sand from my toes! Loved this book. So glad I found this at a thrift store for a quarter! Worth so much more! ...more
This is one of those wonderful, contemporary mythic novels that blurs the boundaries between reality and folklore. I went through a phase where I only wanted my folklore in vaguely historical realms--much like the stories themselves--but lately I've begun preferring them mixed into contemporary life and living. Maybe this mirrors my own self now, a folklore lover that also works 4 jobs at a time, lives in a city, and wants to know there can still be some magic in the day to day.

In The Wood Wife,
Aug 24, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
Re-reading some old favorites at random this month. Really loved her ability to write magic into the real world which reminds me of Charles de Lint. However, instead of Ottawa, Windling makes the Southwest her domain. Not to be missed for anyone who loves modern fairy tales.
Andrew K. Lee
Nov 17, 2015 rated it liked it
The cover of The Wood Wife calls it “An extraordinary tale of wild desert magic,” which is a fitting description.

Floundering in life, trying to break out of a co-dependent relationship with her ex-husband, unable to maintain any other romantic relationships, and unsure what to do next with her life, Maggie Black is elated to learn that she has been left a cabin in the hills outside of Tucson. Her benefactor is the late Davis Cooper, a Pulitzer-winning poet with whom she maintained a regular corr
Feb 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A book of mystical speculative fiction grounded in the desert mountains (a character in their own right), with an endearing group of people and enough of an edge to the story that it sank into me.
Here European folklore and Southwest spirits merge; here painters, poets, farmers, and handymen attend to one another; here there are Celtic spirals and cacti spines.

"Fox sat on the steps of his adobe cabin breathing in the intoxicating smell of the desert after the rain: the pungent scents of creosote
Aug 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Let me start out by saying that this book is very definitely set in the fantasy genre. This is not a genre that I read on a full-time basis. So I would like to apologize if I offend the purists out there.

On a starry night in April, a famous author named Davis Cooper drowns... in the desert of Arizona. He leaves the bulk of his money and property to poet Maggie Black with whom he's had a written correspondence, but never a face to face meeting.

Maggie comes to Arizona to write a biography of Davis
Kat Heatherington
Feb 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This novel, as delicate and hardy as any desert flora, remains the only fantasy novel I have ever encountered that accurately represents not just the ecology of the west, but the sensations of living in the desert. Most fantasy novels set in the American Southwest are just that -- something else, set down inside this environment, like a New Jersey lawn in New Mexico, out of place no matter how carefully they try to blend in. The Wood Wife, on the contrary, grew here all by itself, language born ...more
Aug 11, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: faerie, own, magic
At the time I got this book I really liked the artwork of Brian Froud and as I passed by a charity shop I found this book with the illustrations done by him. It was unusual for me to read it as usually 'modern day' set books do not appeal to me, but it was actually quite good.

Just looking on Wiki, this book is apparently part of Brian Froud's Faerielands series:
Brian Froud's Faerielands series:

"Froud also produced a collaborative series of books collectively known as Brian Froud's Faerielands. H
Dec 20, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010
Terri Windling is one of the editors of the very cool Fairy Tale series of books and of the Bordertown series. I really like all of those books and when I saw she had a full-length novel I grabbed it up. I love this kind of fantastical reworking of old stories.

For me this book was just okay. Honestly, I think Charles de Lint has done a much better job with this kind of story (Forests of the Heart, for instance, and big chunks of Someplace to Be Flying). Ultimately he's a better writer than Windl
Jasmine Skye
Dec 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult, modern-fantasy
Recommended for readers who want a purely American fantasy, who are as fascinated by the desert as I am, or who enjoy strong women taking charge of their lives and the mysteries they encounter in it.

The writing in this book is unbelievably beautiful. Terri Windling truly brings the Sonoran Desert alive and I adored every second of it. I also loved the countless strong female characters and strong female friendships portrayed in this book. It's truly a classic feminist (semi-urban) fantasy with s
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Terri Windling is an American editor, artist, essayist, and the author of books for both children and adults. Windling has won nine World Fantasy Awards, the Mythopoeic Award, the Bram Stoker Award, and her anthology The Armless Maiden, a fiction collection for adult survivors of child abuse, appeared on the shortlist for the James Tiptree, Jr. Award. She was also honored with SFWA's Soltice Award ...more

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“(….) “What does it matter whose head those images came from? ‘Poetry is a conversation not a monologue,’ “ Fox quoted Cooper in a passable English accent. “A writer can only put the words on the paper; the vision has to come from the reader, right? It’s language, not paint, not film. That’s the beauty of it to me. Why do your woods or your Wood Wife, have to look precisely the same as Cooper’s?”
“Well in terms of Miller’s work on Cooper-”
“We’re not talking literary critique here. We’re talking about poems, words on a page,” Fox said, tapping his knee, “and what those words turn into when they slip inside your brain.” He tapped his head. “It’s magic; and magic disappears if you try too hard to pin it down.”
More quotes…