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:

Dark Orpheus
Carl V.


16 Responses

  1. I am so glad you enjoyed it. It certainly ranks as one of my most enjoyable reads this year and is high up the list of my favorite reads. I am doing the same thing you are as far as linking to other reviews. I plan to send the group to Terri when the challenge is over just so that she can see that her book continues to make an impact on people.

  2. […] Robin’s review Dark Opheus’ review Deslily’s review Chris’ review […]

  3. I am so looking forward to reading this one!

  4. yep this was a good read ! But then I have always liked “cowboy and indian” stuff… folklore included. My mother was adopted and the lady I grew up calling grandma was a full blooded Sioux indian… I may not have her blood but the interest I’m sure stemmed from knowing that. (btw: grandpa was full blooded Englishman! lol)

  5. I tried to pick this up and B&N, but it wasn’t in stock. They special ordered it for me. Now, I just have to get to it sometime this month!! I guess I need to start linking other reviews to my posts as well!!

  6. another book i really have got to read! Between your review and Carl’s, it’s now moved to the very top of my list of books to get next. *sigh* wonder if there is a challenge somewhere i can fit it into? Great review, by the way. good luck, good luck, good luck tomorrow!

  7. This sounds so good! I spent a couple weeks in Tuscon when I was 16, and I just loved it too. 😀

  8. Is that a blurb by Charles de Lint on the front cover? After adding a book to my wish list coming from Nymeth’s site I find this. Hahaha, maybe I should skip book bloghopping today to stop piling wish books one on top of the other. Kidding!

  9. This sounds really good. I know Windling’s editorial work with the Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror–always awesome stuff. And with Brian Froud illustrations, how could anyone go wrong? Now let me shake off the feeling that I have EVEN MORE stuff that I need to do–like, for the rest of my life now–and read some fun stuff! 😉

  10. Rich once spent a week in Albuquerque for some seminar while he was in grad school, and he totally fell in love. He’s been trying to get us to move there ever since 🙂
    I’ve got The Wood Wife in my pile for OUaT, but I’m so afraid I’m not going to get to it before the challenge is over. How did I get so swamped?!! But it sounds soooo good! I’ll definitely be reading it even if not for OUaT.

  11. I’m so glad you enjoyed it, too. It was one that really stuck with me after I finished reading it … the more I thought about it the more I realized how much she put into it. The story is great, but she really did extensive and intensive research and there are references to all kind of things and lots of different artists. It’s deep!

  12. Wow!!!! This sounds sooo good. Sooooo good. Thanks. -C

  13. This is the second review I’ve read of this book that has made me want to read this book!

  14. Thanks, Chris ~ another for my TBR list. Like you, I love New Mexico. There’s something mystical about it. If I can afford it, I’d like to retire near Santa Fe. Maybe George R. R. Martin would be my neighbor!

  15. I am really really looking forward to reading this, it is next on my list to read but I just haven’t been motivated lately to pick up anything new. I am in a bit of a house cleaning and sorting binge even though we are supposed to be away in Wales this week. We will hopefully go next week and then I can get back into my reading and enjoy this as much as it deserves.

  16. I’m not here to talk about The Wood Wife. I want to know how your interview went! Pray tell, soon as you can.

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