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Crescent Blues Book ViewsOrb (Trade Paperback), ISBN 0-765-30293-4

A melange of narrative prose, epistles, and poetry, The Wood Wife conjures interesting, if somewhat disturbing, visions of earth spirits, not necessarily benign, inhabiting the mountainous desert surrounding Tucson, Ariz. A journalist/poet, Maggie Black inherits the home and papers of poet Davis Cooper after he died of drowning -- in a dry streambed. Her strong desire to write Cooper's biography leads her to the desert where she begins trying to unravel the mystery surrounding the Pulitzer Prize winner's life and death.

Book: Terri Windling, The Wood Wife
Magic realism netted in the mundane trials of an ex-husband, a new man, neighbors with problems and the necessity of finding the truth about Davis Cooper for the biography reshapes the ordinary into something odd and unusual. Poetry, purportedly that of Davis Cooper, surrounds the narrative, and Cooper's letters (and those of his companion/lover, Anna, an artist) add spice to the tale and verisimilitude to the characterization.

Ah, but did I like the book?

Complexity layered on tangled sub-plots and some intrusions of the authorial voice giving her views on progress and the plight of coyotes, makes my reactions almost as complex as the book. The author's skill in melding the various elements into a whole pleased me. Originally published in 1996, The Wood Wife displays several jarring glitches that took away my suspension of disbelief. Still, I must admire Windling's incredible skill and her audaciousness in using known celebrities of the day as recipients of the letters from the poet and his wife used as inter-chapters.

Will I read it again?

Probably not, but bits and pieces of it will no doubt haunt my mind at odd moments, particularly when I hear coyotes singing to the moon or catch glimpses of things unseen out of the corner of my eye.

Patricia Lucas White

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