THE QUALITIES OF WOOD: A Novel ~Mary Vensel White
“Eyes can become discerning, she thought, if your look long enough. The sky, the qualities of wood. She wondered who invented the microscope, what made them think there was anything to see. Dr. Lightfoot said that the motivation driving the scientist and the artist was the same: to create. Vivian thought about pictures she had seen of early autopsies, fifteenth-century artist monitoring dissections in order to paint the body more faithfully. She thought about Da Vinci’s notebooks, the embryo in the womb and his precise sketches. If you look long enough, close enough. Is that what artists do? The sky, the qualities of wood. Dr. Lightfoot was wrong. Scientists seek to improve, while artists merely represent, reflect, interpret” (from the middle of chapter 17 about page 153)
THE QUALITIES OF WOOD is a wonderful read; I would definitely want this book in my bag for the beach or mountain cabin read. It is slow moving with lots of thinking and contemplation happening as a young woman packs up a Grandmother’s house, looks at her present circumstances and contemplates her future. She is at a new start place in life and in the heat of a Midwestern summer she works and sorts and throws things into the garbage.
Vivian has been married for 4 years to her college sweetheart and she has left her job with the water department in the city to reconnect with her husband at his Grandmother’s house which is in a rural fictional Midwestern location. Nowell is already at the house working on his second mystery novel. When Vivian arrives, Sherriff’s Deputies are in the woods behind the house and they have found a body of a young neighbor girl. Nowell’s brother Lonnie and his new bride Dot arrive to also help clean up the house and Vivian meets a fun townie named Katharine, who becomes a friend and shows them the ropes and gives them the historic tour.
The main road is being paved, it has always been dirt as the town prepares for a huge end of the summer reunion of the Clement family to honor the town founder, The new paved road goes right in front of Grandmother’s house. The town has a number of traditions and a whole museum to honor the founding Mr. Clement; they will have a small fair and special entertainment for everyone to participate in the event. Then again the town has some big secrets and prejudices are exposed about one of the halves of the family tree.
All around Vivian, things begin to fall apart and she begins to contemplate how she became a business major in college and gave up art and her own family lessons and growth. There were secrets between her parents that she begins to understand and interpret how they fit into her life now and into the future. The town secrets and the strange behaviors of her neighbors she thinks about also as she sorts her husband’s family secrets become apparent and reveal the truth right to the very last page.
Lots of symbolism and metaphor have been written into this story. I like that!
“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.” Book cover
This is Mary Vensel White’s first novel. Her short fiction has appeared in many periodicals. She shares life with her husband and 4 children in Southern California.
TLC Online Book Tours and Harper Collins Publishing sent me an advanced reader copy of this book and I found it to be a good read. I think you will like THE QUALITIES OF WOOD.