Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Book Review: The Qualities of Wood

In Mary Vensel White's debut novel, a young married couple moves to the country to help get a house ready for sale after a death in the family. Vivian joins her husband Nowell after he spends the first month alone and the day after she arrives, they learn that a dead girl has been found in the woods on their property.

The girl's death is ruled an accident, but this never fully satisfies Vivian. I read nearly the entire book without being sure if it was a murder mystery or simply an examination of the characters' psyches. I enjoyed not knowing and I'm not going to spoil it for other readers. It kept me guessing to the very last page.

The small town they've moved to has its share of secrets and gossip and there's a lot of distrust to go around. Nowell is being distant, preoccupied with writing his second novel: a murder mystery. Nowell's brother Lonnie has an unpredictable temper and when he drinks, he hints that there are things Vivian doesn't know about her husband. Then there's the strange neighbor who spends a lot of time in those woods.

The tension between the characters is extremely well portrayed and I especially loved the author's observations about memory and perspective and how it can alter one's concept of the truth. Here's one of my favorite lines:

"She wondered how her impressions could ever be reproduced, because the distance between perception and idea was like the space between two skyscrapers."

I very much enjoyed this read and look forward to seeing more from this author.

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