Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Qualities of Wood by Mary Vensel White
My rating: 4 of 5 Stars

Book Blurb:
When Vivian and her husband Nowell are enlisted to prepare his late grandmother's country home for sale, they decide to take a break from city life. Nowell leaves before his wife to begin work on his second mystery novel and by the time Vivian joins him, a real mystery has begun. 

A local girl has died in the woods behind the house. The tall line of trees separating the old white house from the thickets and wildlife beyond attracts Vivian, seems to beckon her within. Details begin to emerge about the victim and Vivian becomes enmeshed in the secrets of the girl's life and final moments. 

Nowell's temperamental brother arrives with his new wife and the house gets crowded. A woman who befriends Vivian relays local gossip, including the questionable legacy of the town's founder, while a
neighbor, a striking man with a buried past of his own, keeps appearing at strange moments. Meanwhile, Vivian's marriage is unraveling as Nowell loses himself in his work and Vivian seeks purpose and ultimately, truth. 

My review:
Vivian and her husband Nowell have left suburbia to renovate Nowell's late grandmother's house in preparation for selling it. Vivian has given up her job to work on the house while Nowell is writing his second mystery novel. Nowell has been at the house for a month while Vivian has tied up loose ends in the city. On the day she arrives, the body of a local teenaged girl is found in the woods behind their home.

The incident leaves Vivian questioning everything and she's a bit suspicious of everyone around her. Nowell seems to be shutting her out. Her hot-headed brother-in-law keeps her wary. And the gossip in the town fuels her desire to find out exactly what the truth is. 

This is a well-crafted novel. Mary White has a unique style of writing. She uses small details that might otherwise not be relevant to the story, yet they allow your imagination to feel as if you are really experiencing it with Vivian. 

Although the mysteries are resolved in the end, I admit to having remaining questions which went unanswered. This is the only thing that kept it from getting a rating of 5 stars from me.

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. She lives in southern California with her husband, four children and two badly trained dogs in a chaotic but happy home. Her husband is an attorney and she is the mom with a book or laptop at the little league game, soccer field or dance studio. 

The Qualities of Wood is her first novel but she is currently at work on a second, set again in the Midwest, a place that lives and flourishes in her imagination despite her current sunny surroundings. Vensel White is also working on a collection of interrelated stories, a method of writing which the esteemed women of her book club refuse to acknowledge as a novel. Watch for news about these two projects.

If you'd like to connect with Mary please check out her website

Where can you get your own copy of The Qualities of Wood? 


  1. Nice Ms. Shepard! ohh I love when someones writing style HITS me like that!