Ecco, Hardcover, 9780061704314, 336pp.
Publication Date: April 1, 2009
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 sympathy 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.
Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Book Critics Circle Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, the National Book Award, and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction, and has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. She has written some of the most enduring fiction of our time, including the national bestsellers We Were the Mulvaneys; Blonde, which was nominated for the National Book Award; and the New York Times bestseller The Falls, which won the 2005 Prix Femina. She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University and has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978. In 2003 she received the Commonwealth Award for Distinguished Service in Literature, and in 2006 she received the Chicago Tribune Lifetime Achievement Award.
“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
“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
“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)
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”