Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Book Critics Circle Lifetime Achievement Award, the National Book Award and the PEN / Malamud Award, and has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Her books include We Were the Mulvaneys, Blonde, Carthage, A Book of American Martyrs and Hazards of Time Travel. She is Professor of Humanities at Princeton University.
In this collection of 14 stories, Oates examines what, at first glance, seem to be normal family relationships-under further magnification, the cracks appear. The title story, based on the Andrea Yates case, imagines a letter to her husband explaining her actions. In both the "Blind Man's Sighted Daughters" and "A Princeton Idyll," disillusionment and disappointment are revealed in daughters' relationships with their fathers. In three stories, "Cutty Sark," "Landfill," and "Vigilante," mother-son interactions lead to differing consequences. Three more stories, "Heart Sutra," "Death by Fitness Center," and "Mistrial," center on the results of women's decisions on whether to take action. In the strangest of the stories, "The Glazers," a young woman is quite shocked when she meets her boyfriend's family. Once again, Oates's ability to zoom in on an aspect of American life makes for insightful reading and unexpected conclusions. Oates, author of more than 30 previous story collections (most recently Wild Nights!), presents another good choice for libraries.-Josh Cohen, Mid-Hudson Lib. Syst., Poughkeepsie, NY Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
"Savage, poetic and ruthless...[Oates's] touch has never been surer, her insights never more piercing...several of the [stories], astonishingly, are among the best things she's ever done...we are witnessing the steady unfolding of one of the towering careers in American letters." -- Washington Post "Oates's stories have a certain doomed poignancy ... if there's a moral here, it's the anything-can-happen wisdom of what Oates calls 'brutal and horrific' fairy tales." -- New York Times Book Review "America simmers in the writings of Joyce Carol Oates, going through the motions of everyday life as best it can, but prone to boiling over at any moment. Oates... has once again held a haunting mirror up to America, revealing who we are." -- Boston Globe "Oates explores incest, death by fitness center, accidental death; it's not light reading, but twined into these human tragedies are bits and pieces found in all our lives." -- Philadelphia City Paper "Although nearly all 14 stories have been published elsewhere, they merit a book of their own. Admirers of Oates' literary fiction will find this collection a transcendent read. Dear Husband is likely to win Oates new fans as well. Oates' characters are masterfully rendered." -- Associated Press "The family ties that bind (and choke) are the overarching theme of Oates's grim but incisive collection...Oates seamlessly enters the minds of disparate characters to find both the exalted and depraved aspects of real American families." -- Publishers Weekly (Lead fiction review) "Admirers of Oates' literary fiction will find this collection a transcendent read. "Dear Husband" is likely to win Oates new fans as well. Oates' characters are masterfully rendered, but she is particularly gifted at creating a certain type: The appallingly egocentric, sometimes to the point of unwitting hostility." -- Boston Herald
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.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.