The Woodsman's Daughter
Monroe Miller feels peaceful among the majestic longleaf pines deep in the woods of southern Georgia. From these trees he makes a good living and has pride in the turpentine company he has built. He is respected and liked. But when Monroe returns home to his grand house, he is made to feel less than welcome; in fact, he is made to feel like a filthy, stupid brute. Monroe's wife is angry and also very sick, not to mention addicted to laudanum. Monroe's daughters, Dalia and Nellie Ann, are torn; they love their father deep down, but their mother's complaints against him are strong.
They also know that he drinks too much and can be cruel, but they do not know that he carries a secret burden --- he is responsible for his wife's sickness and Nellie Ann's blindness. This secret keeps the family tense until Dalia learns it and sets in motion the family's implosion.
THE WOODSMAN'S DAUGHTER, Gwyn Hyman Rubio's follow-up to the bestselling ICY SPARKS, follows the Miller family, Dalia most closely, as they navigate turbulent emotional waters in the post-Civil War American South.
After Dalia loses her parents and her sister, she moves on her own to a new town to find a husband to take care of her. Despite some concerns, she selects Dr. Herman McKee, the odd local dentist. He turns out to be an abusive partner and Dalia finds herself pregnant by a man she hates. She soon gives birth to a son who looks so much like McKee she cannot stand him. It is only after she ignores or debases him his entire childhood, a second marriage, and the death of her beloved daughter that she can find any goodness in her son and love him for who he is.
THE WOODSMAN'S DAUGHTER is a romantic tale of the South. There are few ordinary people; instead we find heroes, heroines, and wicked villains. Monroe is one of the few characters who has any realistic complexity, but he is not likeable. Neither is he quite a villain. Rubio seems unable to decide who he really is.
For the first third of the novel the dialogue is stilted and unrealistic, and the prose is forced --- so much so that it is distracting and off-putting. The latter two thirds flow much smoother as Rubio seems to find the lyrical tone she was striving for.
Dalia is a fierce protagonist; smart and damaged, perhaps more cruel than her father toward her own son. The most interesting character may be the family's long-time servant Katie Mae, a wise and strong woman who practically raised two generations of Miller children.
Although not always original or quite superbly written, THE WOODSMAN'S DAUGHTER is an interesting novel recommended for fans of Southern fiction or historical drama.
Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on January 24, 2011
The Woodsman's Daughter
- Publication Date: August 8, 2005
- Genres: Fiction
- Hardcover: 416 pages
- Publisher: Viking Adult
- ISBN-10: 0670033219
- ISBN-13: 9780670033218