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The Qualities of Wood [Kindle Edition]

Mary Vensel White
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $14.99
Kindle Price: $7.59
You Save: $7.40 (49%)
Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers

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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.



Editorial Reviews

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

  • File Size: 479 KB
  • Print Length: 321 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0007523580
  • Publisher: Authonomy; Reprint edition (January 31, 2012)
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B006NSGD36
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #346,054 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a great debut April 11, 2012
By katie78
Format:Kindle Edition
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.
-Katie O'Rourke, author of Monsoon Season
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enthralling, mysterious - a most enjoyable read. January 31, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
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 highly 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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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A descriptive story with a disappointing ending. May 27, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
In THE QUALITIES OF WOOD we first meet Vivian, a twenty-something wife who is being picked up by her husband Nowell at the airport. Nowell has been at his grandmother's farm for the last month writing his second book. Vivian and Nowell had agreed to uproot their city life and move to the Midwest after his grandmother's death. Nowell planned to write while Vivian cleaned and organized the place to prepare it for sale. The story is told from Vivian's point of view and we are limited in the story to her perception of things, which at times is a bit skewed.

Vivian isn't prepared for the quiet, country life and is startled to find that a teenage girl had been found dead in the woods behind the house on the day of her arrival. At once Vivian seems skeptical about the death of the girl and is suspicious of her new neighbors as well as her husband. When her brother-in-law, Lonnie and his new wife, Dot arrive, their lives get a bit frazzled and tempers flare. Vivian feels like people are keeping secrets and she is determined to find out what they are.

The author does a great job of putting you in the setting of the story, describing the old house, the personal things left behind, the woods, the nearby small town and the people that live there. But, at times, I felt like she spent too much time on details and characters that weren't really relevant to the story, like for example, the men laying asphalt on the road near the house.

I am always curious as to how the title of the book will be used in the book and in this case it set up how Vivian ends up seeing the people and the places for who and what they really are.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars but i found it boring. Was a book that was easy to put ...
Was written okay, but i found it boring. Was a book that was easy to put down.
Published 20 days ago by Heather Johnson
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
A lot of build up to nothing. The ending just drops off.
Published 20 days ago by Cindy Todd
1.0 out of 5 stars Nothing
nothing happens in this book. lots of things make you wonder and they all add up to nothing! I was disappointed.
Published 1 month ago by R Scott
5.0 out of 5 stars Evocative and immersive, a real gem!
Literary with a dash of mystery, Mary Vensel White’s debut novel invites the reader to accompany twenty-something Vivian as she moves to the small-town birthplace of her novelist... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Douglas Bornemann
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable recreational reading. Held my interest waiting for mystery...
Enjoyable recreational reading. Held my interest waiting for mystery to unfold.
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
2.0 out of 5 stars Qualities of Wood
Slow paced. Another aimless young wife idealizes selfish husband. Ending was unsatisfactory and typical. Don't know what to do with your life and your marriage is dull? Read more
Published 2 months ago by Sarah McKenzie
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, despite the positive reviews
I did not enjoy this book. I continued to read it because I felt that all would be revealed eventually. It was an extreme disappointment and a waste of my reading hours.
Published 2 months ago by St. Croix Customer
1.0 out of 5 stars Didn't like it. It just dragged on and on
Didn't like it. It just dragged on and on. Got through most of the book waiting for the exciting part. I gave up.
Published 2 months ago by Susan
1.0 out of 5 stars No Quality
This is one of the WORST, MOST BORING books I have ever had the displeasure to read. Absolutely NOTHING happens to the cardboard, one-dimensional characters. Read more
Published 2 months ago by BookLover526
5.0 out of 5 stars Easy to read literary fiction
This is a beautifully written story of mistrust between a wife and her husband. A married couple has moved to the husband's late grandmother's house in a small town. Read more
Published 3 months ago by digsblues
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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.




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