Review by Shellie for The Qualities of Wood by Mary Vensel White.
Shellie’s quick take: A literary mystery novel set around the death of a local teenager.
Shellie’s description: Vivian and Nowell Gardiner are young and recently married when Nowell’s grandmother passes away and they inherit her home in the country. When a local girl is found dead in the woods near their new home, the mystery begins. Naturally the newlyweds Nowell and Vivian are shocked, but each has their own self-involved concerns about their own lives, which is what the story is mainly about.
The author carries us through their trials as the couple question the shocking death and try to sort out their home for future sale. And as a matter of course suspicions and self reflection abound within both the main characters and the community – was it murder or was the death an accident?
Shellie’s thoughts: Now for the good and the not so good. The author has great story telling skills so that I was immediately drawn in and captured; and I love atmospheric thrillers which is what I was expecting when starting to read The Qualities of Wood. However, what caught me off guard was the “literary factor”. Yep the book is literary fiction. Not that I don’t like literary fiction, but this book takes it a bit beyond what I enjoy. It goes on and on with endless descriptions and more. I was not in the mood for long explanations of the feelings of the main characters, especially in the last third of the book. I wanted some escalation, tension, and then some well-deserved resolution. By the time the conclusion was finally divulged, I had skipped A LOT. Sadly, it had started out so promising. Now of course I did read the ARC version of the book so hopefully some of the more tedious parts were edited out.
I don’t usually post reviews for books that I find disappointing but I wanted to warn other potential readers who perhaps may be caught off-guard, like I was. And although I did not enjoy the entire book, I am sure there are readers that will. So I would recommend it for readers who like dark literary fiction with a reminder that this story only finishes successfully at the very VERY end of the book. It was a bit frustrating and disappointing for me so I’d rate the book 2.5 stars. It was okay.
Harper Collins | Trade Paperback | 320 pages | 6/17/2014