Cardiff, by the Sea : Four Novellas of Suspense
by Oates, Joyce Carol

"From one of the most important contemporary American writers, Cardiff, by the Sea is a bold, haunting collection of four previously unpublished novellas. Starting with the title novella-in which a romantic-minded young art historian is led to (re)discover a terrifying trauma after inheriting property in faraway Cardiff, Maine-through to "The Surviving Child"-which finds the young new wife of a famous poet's widow haunted by the dead poet's voice dancing in the wind, an inexplicably befouled well, and a compulsive draw to the same garage that already took two lives-Cardiff, by the Sea is ceaselessly sinister. In these psychologically daring, chillingly suspenseful novellas, Joyce Carol Oates writes about women facing threats past and present"-

Joyce Carol Oates is the author of such national bestsellers as The Falls, Blonde, and We Were the Mulvaneys. Her other titles for The Mysterious Press include Night-Gaunts and Other Tales of Suspense, which features "The Woman in the Window," selected for The Best American Mystery Stories 2017; The Doll-Master and Other Tales of Terror, which won the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a Fiction Collection; and Jack of Spades. She is the recipient of the National Book Award for them and the 2010 President's National Humanities Medal.

Claire, Mia, Alyce, Elisabeth-three women and one just coming into womanhood-confront malevolent and vengeful forces as they navigate worlds in which the balance of power and the vulnerability of the outsider are in constant play. In each of these four suspenseful novellas, one of Oates' protagonists faces circumstances that are both ordinary and remarkable: an inheritance from an unknown biological grandmother, a sexually predatory stepfather, an unwanted pregnancy, a recalcitrant stepchild. Gaslighting, a concept much in the news of late, is performed by male counterparts, villainous figures of authority in the guise of husbands, fathers, professors, lawyers, even children. In each tale, these women walk a shaky tightrope, teetering between self-deception and self-actualization, between doubt and certitude, as they encounter threats real and imagined. Indeed, their interior lives abound with recriminations and suspicions, while physical interactions remain open to interpretation. Careful reading is advised, for Oates' menacing novellas can turn on a single sentence buried deep in the narrative, making the reader, much like the characters, distrust what they thought to be true. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.

Creeping dread and dark violence haunt parents and children in four novellas of suspense. In her latest collection, the indefatigable Oates returns to the theme of parents and what they will—or won't—do to protect their children. The title novella is the story of Clare Seidel, an art historian in her 30s. Adopted as a toddler, she's never been curious about her birth family until, out of the blue, she receives a call from a lawyer in the (fictional) Maine town of Cardiff, informing her that a grandmother she's never heard of has died and left her a bequest. Soon she has discovered an eccentric trio of living relatives as well as the terrifying story of her long-dead immediate family. But every answer she gets about her past only raises new questions, and dangers. In Miao Dao, 12-year-old Mia is having a rough year. After her parents divorce, her mother finds a new man who makes the girl uneasy. Mia is also disturbed by the physical changes that adolescence brings. Her only solace is a nearby colony of feral cats, from which she rescues a tiny white kit ten with strange black eyes that might or might not be her savior. Phantomwise: 1972┬ is the story of Alyce, a bright but na├»ve college student. She becomes involved with both her ambitious young philosophy professor and her kindly, older writing professor, a famous poet who tells her she reminds him of the girl in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. When she becomes pregnant, she goes down a very bad rabbit hole. The literary allusion that haunts The Surviving Child┬ is the life and death of poet Sylvia Plath. In Oates' fictional take, the poet is N.K., a brilliant, successful, but troubled woman. The story takes place several years after the murder-suicide that killed N.K. and her toddler daughter but left her young son alive. Told from the point of view of Elisabeth, who becomes the second wife of N.K.'s formidable husband, it's a twisted tale of toxic patriarchy. Family secrets bloom into nightmares in these skillful, chilling stories. Copyright Kirkus 2020 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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