Daniel Woodrell is one of my writing idols. Without Winter's Bone, without his stark, heart-wrenching stories, without Woodrell's dedication to the authentic voice and unflinching honesty of his characters there would be a deep hole in my perception of what it means to truly be an author.
So I was beyond excited when Woodrell's latest novel, The Maid's Version, was released this past September. I bought it the very first day it came out and dove in greedily, ready to enjoy the tale and analyze his writing style. And I have to admit that at first I was disappointed. I was expecting the rawness of Winter's Bone and the violence often found in his short stories, and I found something very different. I was slightly unsettled when I finished the novel- I set it down after turning the last page and tried to wrap my head around what I had just experienced.
It took me a while, but I've come to the conclusion that the merit of The Maid's Version lies not in its deliverance of expected Woodrell style, but rather that it is the most accessible of his works. This novel is a story for all readers, not just those who like dark tales and jagged prose. The Maid's Version is much more literary than thriller and certainly wider in its thematic scope. The writing is gorgeous, and the story- which takes through the reader through different moments in time as the narrator explores the mystery of a tragic, dancehall fire- is intriguing without being disturbing. Woodrell may have taken less of a risk with The Maid's Version, but I think this novel will encourage more readers to gravitate to his work. And, in that sense, I am very thankful for The Maid's Version indeed.