A novel of tremendous sweep and pace about the American family in crisis -- but also about America itself in the mid-20th century. This novel is the crowning achievement of Joyce Carol Oates's career to date. A man climbs over the railings and plunges into Niagara Falls. He's a newly-wed, and his bride has been left behind in the honeymoon suite ...
A novel of tremendous sweep and pace about the American family in crisis -- but also about America itself in the mid-20th century. This novel is the crowning achievement of Joyce Carol Oates's career to date. A man climbs over the railings and plunges into Niagara Falls. He's a newly-wed, and his bride has been left behind in the honeymoon suite the morning after their wedding. For two weeks, Ariah, the deserted bride, waits by the side of the roaring waterfall for news of her husband's recovered body. During her vigil, an unlikely new love story begins to unfold when she meets a wealthy lawyer who is transfixed by her strange, otherworldly gaze. So it all begins, in the 1950s, with the dark foreboding of the Falls the sinister background to events. From this cataclysmic event unfurls a drama of parents and their children; of secrets and sins; of lawsuits, murder and, eventually redemption. As Ariah's children learn that their past is enmeshed with a hushed-up scandal involving radioactive waste materials, they must confront not only their personal history but America's murky past: the despoiling of the American landscape and the corruption and greed of the massive industrial expansion of the 1950s and 1960s. This novel of tremendous sweep and pace is about the American family in crisis -- but also about America itself in the mid-20th century. This book alone places Joyce Carol Oates definitively in the company of the Great American Novelists.
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Publishers Weekly, 2004-07-05 Oates is not only on her authentically rendered home ground in this sprawling novel set in the city of Niagara Falls during the 1950s, she is also writing at the top of her form. Her febrile prose is especially appropriate to a story as turbulent as the tumultuous waters that have claimed many lives over the years. Widowed on her wedding night when her new husband, a young minister and latent homosexual, throws himself into the falls, Ariah Littrell, the plain, awkward daughter of a minister, henceforth considers herself damned. Her bleak future becomes miraculously bright when Dirk Burnaby, a handsome, wealthy bon vivant with an altruistic heart, falls in love with the media-dubbed Widow-Bride. Their rapturous happiness is shadowed only by Ariah's illogical conviction over the years that Dirk will leave her and their three children someday. Her unreasonable fear becomes self-fulfilling when her increasingly unstable behavior, combined with Dirk's obsessed but chaste involvement with Nina Olshaker, a young mother who enlists his help in alerting the city fathers to the pestilential conditions in the area later to be known as Love Canal, opens a chasm in their marriage. His gentle heart inspired by a need for justice, Dirk takes on the powerful, corrupt politicians, his former peers and pals, in a disastrous lawsuit that ruins him socially and financially and results in his death. Oates adroitly addresses the material of this "first" class action lawsuit and makes the story fresh and immediate. "In the end, all drama is about family," a character muses, and while the narrative occasionally lapses into melodrama in elucidating this theme, Oates spins a haunting story in which nature and humans are equally rapacious and self-destructive. Agent, Jane Hawkins. Author tour. (Sept. 16) Forecast: This is likely to be one of Oates's biggest sellers-its heft, striking setting and sheer excellence should make it her highest-profile novel since Blonde. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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