Augusta Brinkworth nearly breaks from grief when her husband is killed in a rock quarry slide, leaving her with a passel of children to feed in the throes of the Great Depression. Armed with detached stoicism, she disengages from the lives of her grieving children, pushing them away, while forces outside and within the family threaten its existence. Will Augusta shed her detachment and engage in her children’s lives before the family rips apart?
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Mary DeMuth's The Quarryman's Wife is an admirable first novel. The plot, while not complex, explores the Brinkworth’s family emotions when Tom, the father, is accidently killed in a quarry accident. DeMuth unravels each character slowly, choosing to tell the reader more than show the reader the personal growth of each family member as he or she comes to grips with the tragedy. Her gift lies clearly in her ability to describe characters and environment. The specific detail evokes strong visuals for the reader. For example, in the end Augusta is moved by her neighbor’s husband recovery, He had been hurt in the very same quarry accident where her husband had died. DeMuth writes: “She [Augusta] smiled, a broad open smile, so open that her tears could have a home there.” The smile is not only a smile of happiness for her neighbor’s health, but the smile of acceptance and hope for a brighter future for her family.
DeMuth's understanding of story structure is a bit wobbly. However, the artful reading from the narrator, Lugene Ganley, pulls the reader through the unveiling of the family’s raw emotions and gives life to DeMuth’s characters.