A gripping and moving new collection of stories by Joyce Carol Oates, which reimagines the meaning of family--by unexpected, often startling means
With the unflinching candor and sym pathy for which Joyce Carol Oates is celebrated, these fourteen stories examine the intimate lives of contemporary American families: the tangled ties between generations, the desperation--and the covert, radiant happiness--of loving more than one is loved in return. In "Cutty Sark" and "Landfill," the bond between adolescent son and mother reverberates with the force of an unspoken passion, bringing unexpected consequences for the son. In "A Princeton Idyll," a woman is forced to realize, decades later, her childhood role in the destruction of a famous, beloved grandfather's life. In "Magda Maria," a man tries to break free of the enthralling and dangerous erotic obsession of his life. In the gripping title story, Oates boldly reimagines the true-crime story of Andrea Yates, the Texas mother who drowned her children in 2001. Several stories--"Suicide by Fitness Center," "The Glazers," and "Dear Joyce Carol,"--take a less tragic turn, exploring with mordant humor the shadowy interstices between self-awareness and delusion.
Dramatic, intensely rendered, and always provocative, Dear Husband, provides an unsettling and fascinating look into the mysterious heart of America.
The family ties that bind (and choke) are the overarching theme of Oates's grim but incisive collection. The title story takes the form of a rambling letter from an Andrea Yates-like mother after her infanticide is completed, detailing her belief that God has instructed her to drown her five little children who have not turned out right. A Princeton Idyll gives us a series of letters between a chipper children's author, granddaughter of a famous physicist, now deceased, and his sometimes sentimental, sometimes-bitter former maid; the result, in true Oatesian fashion, is dark family secrets and a good deal of denial. In Vigilante a son, struggling with his recovery from substance abuse, helps his unknowing mom by exacting revenge on his estranged dad. Special is told from the perspective of an elementary-school girl who moves toward desperate action watching her autistic older sister strain her parents' marriage and, worse, garner all their attention. Throughout the collection, Oates seamlessly enters the minds of disparate characters to find both the exalted and depraved aspects of real American families. (Apr.)
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1 . Just Great
Posted April 09, 2009 by Nancy Terrell , HonoluluThis is Oates at her very best. I downloaded this to my Sony Reader and have treated it as a desert. Because there are 14 stories and I want to savor each I read one at a time as a reward for doing something I absolutely hate to do - like clean the house or wash the dishes. This way I can take my time and not confuse what Joyce Carol is really putting over. I love the way she puts down everything we were taught to strive for. Great reading.
March 30, 2009
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