THE QUALITIES OF WOOD
By: Mary Vensel White
To Be Published: June 17, 2014
Publisher: Authonomy through HarperCollins
In THE QUALITIES OF WOOD we first meet Vivian, a twenty-something wife who is being picked up by her husband Nowell at the airport. Nowell has been at his grandmother’s farm for the last month writing his second book. Vivian and Nowell had agreed to uproot their city life and move to the Midwest after his grandmother’s death. Nowell planned to write while Vivian cleaned and organized the place to prepare it for sale. The story is told from Vivian’s point of view and we are limited in the story to her perception of things, which at times is a bit skewed.
Vivian isn’t prepared for the quiet, country life and is startled to find that a teenage girl had been found dead in the woods behind the house on the day of her arrival. At once Vivian seems skeptical about the death of the girl and is suspicious of her new neighbors as well as her husband. When her brother-in-law, Lonnie and his new wife, Dot arrive, their lives get a bit frazzled and tempers flare. Vivian feels like people are keeping secrets and she is determined to find out what they are.
The author does a great job of putting you in the setting of the story, describing the old house, the personal things left behind, the woods, the nearby small town and the people that live there. But, at times, I felt like she spent too much time on details and characters that weren’t really relevant to the story, like for example, the men laying asphalt on the road near the house.
I am always curious as to how the title of the book will be used in the book and in this case it set up how Vivian ends up seeing the people and the places for who and what they really are.
As I moved through the book, I began to get more and more annoyed with the characters. It seemed all of them were selfish, whiny, and immature. The conversations they had with each other were dull and without purpose. All the while, I kept expecting some great lead up to the mystery that the back of the book alludes to. Sadly, the conclusion was a let down.
I felt like I was led through the book with a promise of a big climax related to the death of the girl in the woods. Sadly, the “big reveal” was not that big of a deal. I do feel the author did a beautiful job painting a picture with words. I was engaged and read the novel quickly, but felt disappointed with the ending.
|Mary Vensel White
Mary Vensel White was born in LA and graduated from the University of Denver. She lived in Chicago for 5 years where she received her MA at DePaul University. Her short fiction has appeared in The Wisconsin Review and Foothilles Literary Journal. This is her first novel. For more on Mary Vensel White, visit her website, http://maryvenselwhite.com/. You can also find her on Facebook, HERE, and Twitter, HERE.
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