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The Qualities of Wood [Kindle Edition]

Mary Vensel White
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

‘A haunting and provocative debut.’ – Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author of ORPHAN TRAIN

When Betty Gardiner dies, leaving behind an unkempt country home, her grandson and his young wife take a break from city life to prepare the house for sale. Nowell Gardiner leaves first to begin work on his second mystery novel. By the time his wife Vivian joins him, a real mystery has begun: a local girl has been found dead in the woods behind the house. Even after the death is ruled an accident, Vivian can’t forget the girl, can’t ignore the strange behaviour of her neighbours, or her husband. As Vivian attempts to put the house in order, all around her things begin to fall apart.

The Qualities of Wood is a novel about secrets. Family secrets. Community secrets. And secrets between lovers, past and present. And all of these secrets have their price.



Product Description

Review

‘How well can we know the people we love? To what extent do our pasts colour our perception of the present? In this haunting debut, Mary Vensel White asks these and other provocative questions. The quest for answers will keep you turning pages until the satisfying end.’
- Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author of ORPHAN TRAIN

'Haunting, delicate and utterly controlled. 'The Qualities of Wood' is, quite simply, truly beautiful.'
- Caroline Smailes, author of THE DROWNING OF ARTHUR BRAXTON

‘First novels aren't particularly known for their powerful writing; but from the first sentence, Mary Vensel White's THE QUALITIES OF WOOD captivates and holds the reader.’
- Diane Donovan, Midwest Book Review

About the Author

Mary Vensel White was born in Los Angeles and raised in Lancaster, California. She graduated from the University of Denver and lived for five years in Chicago, where she completed an MA in English at DePaul University. Her short fiction has appeared in The Wisconsin Review and Foothills Literary Journal. The Qualities of Wood is her first novel.


Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 775 KB
  • Print Length: 321 pages
  • Publisher: Authonomy; Reprint edition (31 Jan. 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B006NSGD36
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #481,455 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Mary Vensel White was born in Los Angeles and raised in Lancaster, California. She graduated from the University of Denver and lived for five years in Chicago, where she completed an MA in English at DePaul University. Her short fiction has appeared in The Wisconsin Review and Foothills Literary Journal. The Qualities of Wood is her first novel.

Vensel White currently lives in southern California with her husband and four children. She is working on another novel set in the Midwest, a place that flourishes in her imagination despite her sunny surroundings, and a collection of interrelated short stories.

More information at www.maryvenselwhite.com.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enthralling, mysterious - a most enjoyable read. 31 Jan. 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I'll struggle to convey the mesmerising effect of this stunning debut novel, but I'm going to try. Something about the author's mastery of language, the gentle rhythm of her sentences, the rich descriptive prose, all combine to create a sense of mystery and intrigue from the first page to the last. I hesitate to say this, but I'm going to anyway: as I was reading The Qualities of Wood, I was reminded of the exquisite writing of Marilynne Robinson, prizewinning author of higly acclaimed novels, Gilead, Housekeeping, and Home.

I was transported to the woods behind a white clapperboard house in the American Midwest, and I was lost to them. The story is about Vivian, an artist (and how evident that is in her imaginings - the author herself must be an artist to paint her characters in such subtle yet vivid hues) and her husband, who is a writer.

I won't give away the plot, but the story explores Vivian and Nowell's relationship during a time of upheaval while they take a year out of their city lives to renovate Nowell's grandmother's house. A girl is found dead in the woods behind the house; locals are suspicious, and so is Vivian. Whispers and rumours abound, adding to the sense of intrigue as Vivian tries to settle into small-town life and make friends with her neighbours. Who can she trust?

It's a compelling story but there's another, remarkable, aspect to this novel. In The Qualities of Wood, the wood where the girl is found seems to take on a life of its own - a strange and haunting quality that I found enthralling. The prose seemed to me to represent the trees themselves, with each sentence standing alone, spare, strong, beautiful.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A gripping mystery with secrets to unravel... 15 Sept. 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
This was a really great book and I loved reading it from start to finish. It wasn't at all what I was anticipating, Vivian and Nowell have moved into Nowell's grandmother's house. After his grandmother's passing, they intend to renovate the house in preparation for reselling the house and it's contents. What Vivian doesn't anticipate happening is the death of a seventeen year old girl practically in their back garden within days of moving in. If this is what country life is like, it's not too different from the city after all. But was the girl's death an accident or was there something more going on? This isn't so easy to find out when everyone seems to be keeping secrets.

White takes you on the mystery of a lifetime, there are so many trails that Vivian begins investigating as a reader you begin to suspect everyone. I had my suspicions from the start of reading the book though and in the end they proved to be correct but I found myself doubting them at several times whilst reading, one of the best things a writer can do in a mystery such as this. In fact it was positively dubious if what I thought would unfold was a correct notion at all as the book drew to a conclusion.

At times, however, the pace does slow down somewhat and becomes slightly distracted from the main focus of the book - the mystery - which is why I only gave the book four stars rather than five. It really is an enjoyable read though with suspicions raised at the character's true personalities. What secrets are lurking under the surface? White does an excellent job of uncovering each character's personality, making them all well-rounded and individual with interesting traits which change your perception of them as you read more of the story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A haunting debut, highly recommended 31 July 2012
By collie
Format:Kindle Edition
Gentle, yes, but far from dull. A mystery novel so skilfully written that I was happy for the story to unfold in its own time. Highly recommended, and I will look out for more of the author's work.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brooding, absorbing and gripping 15 Feb. 2012
By Ross
Format:Kindle Edition
The Qualities of Wood follows Vivien, a woman in her late twenties, as she joins her husband, Nowell, in fixing up a house they have inherited on the edge of a wood in the American Midwest. Soon after Vivien arrives, the dead body of a teenage girl is found in the woods on the couple's property. Although the death is ruled an accident, there is something not quite right, a feeling heightened throughout the novel as Vivien discovers more about the past of her husband's family and the history of the small town she has found herself in. The reader begins to question what really happened to the girl and we become suspicious of the occasionally foreboding male characters who enter Vivien's life: the mysterious loner neighbour, Mr. Stokes, an invasive and intimidating road crew worker, and Lonnie, Vivien's erratic, wayward brother in-law. Even her husband starts acting strangely, holding secrets back from Vivien.

What most impressed me about this novel is the controlled way in which the author manages to build atmosphere and tension. Whether it be through the descriptions of the local history of the town or the claustrophobic house and the woods, through the subtly foreboding exchanges Vivien has with the intriguing characters who come onto the scene or through the gossip, rumour and local legends about these same people that are rife in the town, the author cleverly constructs an atmosphere to surround the reader in the world she has created and to keep the tension finely balanced. That said, the author is also capable of taking it up a notch and tightening the screw on the tension and suspense.
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