cover image The Woodsman's Daughter

The Woodsman's Daughter

Gwyn Hyman Rubio, . . Viking, $24.95 (402pp) ISBN 978-0-670-03321-8

Following 2001 Oprah pick Icy Sparks , Rubio's ambitious, faulty second novel comprises three generations' worth of neo-gothic saga. The cast includes Monroe Miller, a prosperous, self-made turpentine farmer in the pine woods of 1880s southern Georgia; Violet, his pathetic, laudanum-addicted wife; spoiled, impetuous Dalia, his eldest daughter; and younger Nellie Ann, blind from birth. Part I follows Monroe through weekend drinking bouts that help him bear the secret sin that shadows him, and a feud with richer neighbor Lollie Morris. Part II follows Dalia, suddenly bereft and on her own, as she starts a new life in the small town of Samson with her ineffectual son, Marion, to whom she is indifferent, and her robust daughter, Clara Nell, whom she suffocates with adoration and who is the protagonist of part III. Predictably, Clara Nell runs away to marry Dayton Morris, son of Lollie, her grandfather's enemy. Death and disaster dominate the last half of the novel, which has some tense moments and reasonable character depth, but this time out Rubio delivers very good genre writing and no more. And despite the suffering Dalia endures (and lots of "Yessams" from servants), she never changes from the selfish, conniving person she became as the woodsman's favorite daughter. 5-city author tour. (On sale Aug. 8)