The Woodsman’s Daughter
The flat pinelands of southern Georgia and its nineteenth-century culture of turpentine farming are the setting for Rubio’s dark, gothic look at three generations of the Miller family. In spite of Monroe Miller’s wealth, his wife has good reason to hate her hard-living and hard-working husband and to teach her daughters to despise him also. The elder daughter, Dalia, is lovely and independent minded, while the younger, Nellie Ann, has been blind since birth. The cause of her affliction, and of the deep, often twisted undercurrents of Nellie Ann’s character and the family’s life, is revealed in the story’s first generation. The Biblical prophecy of the sins of the father being visited upon the children truly comes to pass with Nellie Ann inheriting the consequences of his sin.
The tale loses some focus and power once the father dies and Dalia is forced to leave her home in near poverty. Riveting and moving, the first generation of the story would have made a powerful novel in itself, almost epic in its portrayal of the flawed, complicated father and in its dark themes and vivid characterization of the piney flatlands. Once Dalia moves to a nearby town in search of a husband, the story loses some of its dark momentum. However, the theme of the father’s sin continues. Dalia, while physically unaffected, remains psychologically maimed by her family’s history, and her choice of husbands and her relationships with her children are all warped by this horrible inheritance. Despite some loss of focus, the novel is beautifully written and evocative. It is recommended, especially for readers who enjoy strong regional settings.