BLACK WATER by Joyce Carol Oates

BLACK WATER

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Oates's latest is an impassioned re-creation of the tragedy at Chappaquiddick--with names withheld and the date moved to the current, post-Reagan era. Her name is Elizabeth Kelleher, called "Kelly" by her friends; her age, 26 and eight months; occupation, reporter for the liberal Citizen's Inquiry, whose editor once worked on the Bobby Kennedy campaign. Pretty, tentative Kelly attends casually and without expectations the Fourth of July get-together hosted by her best friend, Buff), St. John, on Grayling Island--little realizing that "the Senator"--charismatic liberal politician, contender for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination, and subject of her senior thesis at Brown--will drop in for a few drinks and a game or two of tennis. The Senator, red-eyed, heavy, and in his late 50s, looks the political warhorse he is, but it's his appetite for debate, politics, and life itself that intrigues the young journalist--he is, after all, her hero. She allows him to lead her on a walk along the beach, to kiss her, to suggest that they catch the ferry off the island and have dinner at his hotel. She is the one, the one he's chosen, Kelly tells herself, frightened though she is as the Senator speeds down a dark, unpaved road toward the ferry, sloshing a fresh gin-and-tonic on her dress. But when his car flips off the road and into the black, polluted Indian River, Kelly gradually realizes that her assumption is false: she isn't chosen, at least not for rescue--and her brief life, with its half-understood longings, fears, and dreams, is over almost before it has begun. One may question whether yet another fictional account, no matter how brief and evocative, of this infamous accident is really worthwhile--though dates fans (and there are many) won't be disappointed.
Pub Date: May 8th, 1992
ISBN: 0452269865
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: Dutton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1992




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