Monday, January 20, 2014
They Blew The Roof Off The Joint....
by Daniel Woodrell
4 out 5 dancing angels.
The thing about small towns and secrets is that usually there aren’t really that many secrets; there are just unpleasant things that aren’t discussed openly.
West Table, Missouri, has one of these uncomfortable topics after an explosion destroyed a dance hall and killed dozens of people in 1929. There is no shortage of rumors about various causes of the disaster, but that’s just the buzz disguising the real story. Listen carefully enough and the underlying truth is there, but most of the locals would prefer that it never be revealed.
Alma Dunahew was a poor maid with three kids she could barely feed as she worked for a prosperous banker when the explosion occurred and killed her younger sister Ruby. Alma believes she knows what happened, but since no one is interested in hearing it, she is eventually shunned and driven half mad by the willful blindness of the town. It’s only years later that she finally reveals the true story to her grandson Alek.
A simple summary like that makes this book seem more linear and more of a mystery than it actually is. Daniel Woodrell tells this like an old person recounting a long story with frequent digressions and skipping back and forth through time. It’s not enough to understand what happened at the dance hall, he wants to make sure you understand why it happened and how it effected everyone with the slightest connection to it.
Despite the rambling nature of how it’s told, it’s still a short tale at 164 pages, but even though it’s not a long book, when the reader gets to the end, they’ll understand each and every character and what part they played.
This seemed a bit different from other Woodrell books I’ve read like Winter’s Bone in that it had more a dreamy quality to the writing. It drifts, it doesn’t walk a straight line, but it still shows that the man delivers maximum story for minimum page counts.
You can read more about Woodrell and the real story behind this fictionalized version of it here.