Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Wood Wife by Terri Windling

I had the privilege of visiting Albuquerque, New Mexico about a year and a half ago for a conference during my Master's program and fell in love with the desert during my week's stay. There's something beautiful and magical about it and it's residents. It can seem barren at first glance, but stay a few days and walk the mountains and talk to the residents; get to know their crafts and traditions and it's an amazing place with an amazing energy. The deserts of Tuscon are the setting for Terri Windling's amazing novel The Wood Wife which is inspired by a series of paintings by Brian Froud. The story centers around a journalist by the name of Marguerita (Maggie) Black and a poet has recently died named Davis Cooper. The two have never met but were long time acquaintances. Davis Cooper lived most of his life in the deserts of Tuscon, though he was born in England. He was a world renowned poet after receiving the Pulitzer for a collection of poetry that he wrote but he then turned to alcohol and seemingly abandoned his poetry. At the beginning of the novel, he mysteriously turns up dead in a dried up riverbed drowned. Even more odd is that he has left his home in the desert to Maggie who he has never met. Maggie is not a desert girl. She's lived in England, L.A., everywhere but the desert. She's requested to do a biography on Cooper but he always refused and refused to meet her, yet he cherished her friendship over their letters. When she's left his house in his will, she sees it as an invitation by him to write his biography, so she moves to the desert to learn the story of his life. She quickly learns that things are different in the desert. There are odd yet stunning and startling paintings by his deceased lover Anna Naverra that depict desert creatures, men with flames rising from their hands, mages, and spirals...paintings that are tied to letters that she reads that show a disconnect with the reality that Maggie has always known. She begins to wonder what Anna and Cooper may have seen and known in the desert as she begins to feel and see that the desert is alive herself. This was my first time reading any of Windling's writing aside from her posts on the Endicott blog and I can see now why she's loved by so many people. I felt very "at home" with Ms. Windling's writing and didn't want to leave it. This was a beautiful, magical tale filled with mystery, intrigue, culture, folklore, and passion. She's created a one of a kind work that's highly deserving of the Mythopoeic award that it was awarded. Other reviews: Deslily Dark Orpheus Robin Carl V.

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