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THE (OTHER) YOU

Few short story writers do as much in so few words as the economical, enigmatic Oates.

Crackling with pent-up emotion and deadly devices, a suite of neatly intertwining stories by a masterful storyteller.

“Whichever side the Professor espoused in an issue, the wife felt obliged to take the opposite side. Sometimes in the midst of their squabbles the wife lost interest abruptly and allowed the subject to fade.” If Oates has a trademark theme, it is in people talking past and against each other instead of getting a clue. In the first story in this collection, a woman, addressed in the second person, who has given up most of her dreams to live in a small town near Buffalo, “gnawing at your embittered heart,” thinks only fleetingly about what might have been. Though she seems to have accepted her lot, we have reason to think that, now late in life, she might have regrets. So does the woman who goes to a place the reader will see several times, the Purple Onion Café, where something terrible will happen. It would be a spoiler to say what, but Oates expertly folds the episode up in a Twilight Zone–ish wrinkle in time, one that we will return to at several points. One character dies in a way of which Edward Gorey would surely approve; most, in these stories laden with somber meditations on death (“For when ‘hospice’ is uttered, it is at last acknowledged—There is no hope”), succumb to the ordinary: cancer, accidents, and now terrorism. “Their friends and neighbors are collapsing all around them!” ponders one academic, aging but not yet old, who has been playing a parlor game of sorts in guessing whom the Reaper will harvest first. In the end, not many people in Yewville or the leafy suburbs of New York make it out of Oates’ pages without at least a few scars, and the Purple Onion suffers plenty of dings as well, which makes it a book that seems just right for the times.

Few short story writers do as much in so few words as the economical, enigmatic Oates.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-303520-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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THE GOD OF THE WOODS

"Don't go into the woods" takes on unsettling new meaning in Moore's blend of domestic drama and crime novel.

Many years after her older brother, Bear, went missing, Barbara Van Laar vanishes from the same sleepaway camp he did, leading to dark, bitter truths about her wealthy family.

One morning in 1975 at Camp Emerson—an Adirondacks summer camp owned by her family—it's discovered that 13-year-old Barbara isn't in her bed. A problem case whose unhappily married parents disdain her goth appearance and "stormy" temperament, Barbara is secretly known by one bunkmate to have slipped out every night after bedtime. But no one has a clue where's she permanently disappeared to, firing speculation that she was taken by a local serial killer known as Slitter. As Jacob Sluiter, he was convicted of 11 murders in the 1960s and recently broke out of prison. He's the one, people say, who should have been prosecuted for Bear's abduction, not a gardener who was framed. Leave it to the young and unproven assistant investigator, Judy Luptack, to press forward in uncovering the truth, unswayed by her bullying father and male colleagues who question whether women are "cut out for this work." An unsavory group portrait of the Van Laars emerges in which the children's father cruelly abuses their submissive mother, who is so traumatized by the loss of Bear—and the possible role she played in it—that she has no love left for her daughter. Picking up on the themes of families in search of themselves she explored in Long Bright River (2020), Moore draws sympathy to characters who have been subjected to spousal, parental, psychological, and physical abuse. As rich in background detail and secondary mysteries as it is, this ever-expansive, intricate, emotionally engaging novel never seems overplotted. Every piece falls skillfully into place and every character, major and minor, leaves an imprint.

"Don't go into the woods" takes on unsettling new meaning in Moore's blend of domestic drama and crime novel.

Pub Date: July 2, 2024

ISBN: 9780593418918

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2024

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SANDWICH

A moving, hilarious reminder that parenthood, just like life, means constant change.

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During an annual beach vacation, a mother confronts her past and learns to move forward.

Her family’s annual trip to Cape Cod is always the highlight of Rocky’s year—even more so now that her children are grown and she cherishes what little time she gets with them. Rocky is deep in the throes of menopause, picking fights with her loving husband and occasionally throwing off her clothes during a hot flash, much to the chagrin of her family. She’s also dealing with her parents, who are crammed into the same small summer house (with one toilet that only occasionally spews sewage everywhere) and who are aging at an alarmingly rapid rate. Rocky’s life is full of change, from her body to her identity—she frequently flashes back to the vacations of years past, when her children were tiny. Although she’s grateful for the family she has, she mourns what she’s lost. Newman (author of the equally wonderful We All Want Impossible Things, 2022) imbues Rocky’s internal struggles with importance and gravity, all while showcasing her very funny observations about life and parenting. She examines motherhood with a raw honesty that few others manage—she remembers the hard parts, the depths of despair, panic, and anxiety that can happen with young children, and she also recounts the joy in a way that never feels saccharine. She has a gift for exploring the real, messy contradictions in human emotions. As Rocky puts it, “This may be the only reason we were put on this earth. To say to each other, I know how you feel.”

A moving, hilarious reminder that parenthood, just like life, means constant change.

Pub Date: June 18, 2024

ISBN: 9780063345164

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 23, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2024

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