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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.

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tlc logo 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.

Related:
Little Island
The Moon Sisters
In the Land of the Living
Becalmed

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9 Responses to “THE QUALITIES OF WOOD: A Novel ~Mary Vensel White”

  1. Mary Vensel White, author of The Qualities of Wood, on tour May/June 2014 | TLC Book Tours Says:

    […] Tuesday, June 3rd: Patricia’s Wisdom […]

  2. Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours Says:

    I’m glad you enjoyed this book! Thanks for being a part of the tour.

    Patricia Reply:

    Heather J
    You are welcome. I love to read!
    Patricia recently posted..THE QUALITIES OF WOOD: A Novel ~Mary Vensel WhiteMy Profile

  3. Davina Haisell Says:

    Sounds like a wonderful read, Patricia.

    The key words here for me were Grandmother, secrets, symbolism and metaphor. I love the title too…the whole package, cover design, title and your review…all a good combination. Nice work.

    Patricia Reply:

    Davina
    I had the feeling this book was more about the Southern Midwest – and when I decided that I began to enjoy it more. Think Kansas or Arkansas, Missouri maybe.

    Yes I kept in mind all the things I knew about what wood represents and then when looking for that interplay of words and thought the book warmed right up.

    Thank you for dropping by and your kind words about my review
    Patricia recently posted..THE QUALITIES OF WOOD: A Novel ~Mary Vensel WhiteMy Profile

  4. Laurie Buchanan Says:

    I’m with Davina — I’m intrigued by the ingredient list: grandmother, secrets, symbolism, and metaphor.
    Laurie Buchanan recently posted..Drawing Personal LinesMy Profile

    Patricia Reply:

    Laurie,
    It was a good book and it made me think and search ideas. Slower paced then many of the books I have read recently – Southern speed on a hot summer’s day
    Patricia recently posted..A MAGNIFICENT CRIME: Agency of Burglary and Theft: A novel ~Kim FosterMy Profile

  5. Sam Juliano Says:

    Yes the intrigue would hold the best hand for a riveting read. And you confirm it has indeed with another very fine review Patricia!
    Sam Juliano recently posted..86. It’s A Wonderful LifeMy Profile

    Patricia Reply:

    Sam,
    I try to work from the positive on these stories…It took me awhile to figure out the metaphors in this one; good thinking exercise, but a good read
    Patricia recently posted..THE SUPREME MACARONI COMPANY: A Novel about the Angelini Shoe Company ~Adriana TrigianiMy Profile