Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Gravedigger's Daughter by Joyce Carol Oates

From the back cover: Fleeing Nazi Germany in 1936, the Schwarts immigrate to a small town in upstate New York. Here the father - a former high school teacher - is demeaned by the only job he can get: gravedigger and cemetary caretaker. When local prejudice and the family's own emotional fraility give rise to an unthinkable tragedy, the gravedigger's daughter, Rebecca, heads out into America. Embarking upon an extraordinary odyssey of erotic risk and ingenius self-invention, she seeks renewal, redemption, and peace - on the road to a bittersweet and distinctly "American" triumph.

Joyce Carol Oates certainly looks prim and proper in the photograph on the back of the book. So how the heck does she manage to write using all those expletives! It must be art. I’m guessing she is so acclaimed as an author because she is good at her craft. If her hope at the start of the book was to get into the head of the main character, Rebecca, and show us all how distressed and almost mad she is, then she does a too good job at this! Because trying to read it and decipher what was actually happening and what was just happening in the characters head nearly drove me mad. So this is a “plowed through just to find out what happens” book. Parts were enjoyable but it never grabbed me and made me wish the story would go on and on. I was ready for it to end not long after it started. My not being able to stop and let it go is a flaw – life is too short to waste on a book that isn’t great but I can’t stand starting and then not knowing how it ends. Do you think they make Sparks notes for popular fiction?

On a side note, I acquired this book from my brother when we all spent the week at the beach. He read it while we were there and then I took it home. My brother reads constantly but it is ALL professional reading for his job as a university professor. He makes quick work of book after book when we visit together at our parents house – all dry, studious works - no popular fiction. So I am just amazed that when he would decide to take the time to read a fiction book – it would be that one wasn’t really very good. What a waste!

1 comment:

Beth F said...

Thanks for the review. I'm not an Oates fan, either. I'm glad to know I'm not alone.