Review: The Maid’s Version

ImageTitle: The Maid’s Version

Author: Daniel Woodrell

Rating: ★★

Provided Synopsis: 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.

Review: 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 dance hall explodes. Alma knows behind-the-scenes details of what occurred before the tragedy struck, therefore she is aware of the responsible party for the loss of so many lives. The town, however, decides to regard her as crazy since they do not wish to seek justice if the responsible party is a wealthy member of society. Years later and still haunted by what she knows, she recounts the story to her grandson and advises him to tell it to us.

Did I like this book? I am not even sure. I think I would have enjoyed it more if the structure of the storytelling had been more linear. The underlying story of the dance hall fire and the people involved was less dynamic due to the way the story wandered between characters and time periods too much. This might be a book for some people, but it was not for me.

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