Book Report: The Wood Wife

So this week of previews at the theatre is almost over.  I have two shows to go till my day off— a matinee and an evening performance— and we’re all pretty ready for a break.  The horrifying awfulness of so much of the show is starting to wear off a bit as I get the shape of the show and my cues through it all into my bones.  That’s usually the hardest part of a show, and for this one, it’s been extra difficult.

But what all this means is that my mind is starting to come back online, which means I’m starting to think about writing and other work again.  Two of my co-workers united to spark an idea for a series of short stories, and I’m finally going to sit down and plan out the next novel or two.  But for now, I’m still just reading to balance my emotional strain a bit.  Have I told you guys about The Wood Wife yet?  I haven’t?  It’s one of my favorite books ever, let me tell you about it.

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The Wood Wife is the story of a poet remembering that she is a poet.  It’s also about a poet who lived on a mountain and drowned in the desert, all for his lover who was a surrealist painter.  It’s also about the mountain they live on.  And the past, and the present, and the forces that run through a place and the people affected by both the place and the spirits that weave through everything.

It’s a hard book to describe, really.  The language Terri Windling uses had me wrapped up from page one where she describes the night of the elder poet’s death and the creatures that mark his passing even as he is left, drowned in a dry wash that hasn’t seen water in decades in the middle of the Sonoran Desert.   Even though she’s properly at home in Britain, she manages to evoke the American Southwest in a way that I’m sure I couldn’t.

I love Maggie Black, the main character.  She moves into the house of Cooper Davis on a wild mountain near Tuscon after he leaves it to her in his will.  She takes it as a sign that he’s finally granting permission for her to write a book on him, though he’s refused to even meet her in person for years.  Naturally, once she gets there, she gets caught up in the slower life, the more remote mountain and the interesting characters that live there, and along with them she gets swept into a battle for the supernatural balance of the area.  At least Maggie is let in on the supernatural aspect of it— not all of them are.  And on the way we get to watch her journey from tired, slightly defeated writer trying to break out of her magnetic ex-husband’s orbit back to energized, driven poet who can honestly be fond friends with her ex, but no longer elastically tied to him.

It’s not a fast-paced, snarky, city adventure by any stretch.  It’s a slow, almost hushed build to the climactic gathering of all the characters, but once you get there the pay off is well worth the reader’s patience, and the journey there is entirely enjoyable.  I can’t recommend this book enough. Seriously.  Go read this one.

Ten out of 5 rutabagas.  Seriously.  I love this book.

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Photo credit: akseabird via Visual hunt / CC BY-NC

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