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The Qualities of Wood by [White, Mary Vensel]
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The Qualities of Wood Kindle Edition

3.2 out of 5 stars 75 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


‘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: 772 KB
  • Print Length: 321 pages
  • Publisher: Authonomy; Reprint edition (January 31, 2012)
  • Publication Date: January 31, 2012
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B006NSGD36
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #414,611 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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