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Carthage [NOOK Book]

Overview

A young girl's disappearance rocks a community and a family in this stirring examination of grief, faith, justice, and the atrocities of war from Joyce Carol Oates, "one of the great artistic forces of our time" (The Nation)

Zeno Mayfield's daughter has disappeared into the night, gone missing in the wilds of the Adirondacks. But when the community of Carthage joins a father's frantic search for the girl, they discover the unlikeliest of suspects—a decorated Iraq War veteran ...

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Carthage

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Overview

A young girl's disappearance rocks a community and a family in this stirring examination of grief, faith, justice, and the atrocities of war from Joyce Carol Oates, "one of the great artistic forces of our time" (The Nation)

Zeno Mayfield's daughter has disappeared into the night, gone missing in the wilds of the Adirondacks. But when the community of Carthage joins a father's frantic search for the girl, they discover the unlikeliest of suspects—a decorated Iraq War veteran with close ties to the Mayfield family. As grisly evidence mounts against the troubled war hero, the family must wrestle with the possibility of having lost a daughter forever.

Carthage plunges us deep into the psyche of a wounded young corporal haunted by unspeakable acts of wartime aggression, while unraveling the story of a disaffected young girl whose exile from her family may have come long before her disappearance.

Dark and riveting, Carthage is a powerful addition to the Joyce Carol Oates canon, one that explores the human capacity for violence, love, and forgiveness, and asks if it's ever truly possible to come home again.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
★ 01/01/2014
Multiaward winner Oates's latest work focuses on the disappearance and apparent murder of a talented but socially isolated 19-year-old by her sister's ex-fiancé. The multiple points of view allow us inside the minds of the shattered Iraqi war veteran accused of the crime, the deceased young woman's shocked and grieving family, and the young woman herself. In some ways, all are victims of wartime atrocities. Each perspective is involving; each character is complex and sympathetic. The result is a narrative that demands continual reevaluation of individuals and events, and readers are likely to race through the pages to unravel the mystery of what happened and why. The unexpected conclusion is very satisfying reading. This is a story about war, violence, mental illness, love, hatred, and, perhaps most of all, the will to survive and the healing power of forgiveness, all powerfully rendered by a master storyteller. VERDICT Recommended for fans of family dramas from Oates, such as We Were the Mulvaneys. [See Prepub Alert, 8/5/13.]—Evelyn Beck, Piedmont Technical Coll., Greenwood, SC
The New York Times Book Review - Liesl Schillinger
At the Brooklyn Museum, an exhibit called War/Photography: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath…featured a photograph by Nina Berman of a young Marine sergeant, Ty Ziegel, who was horrifically injured and disfigured by a suicide bomb in Iraq in 2004. Returning home, he underwent scores of surgeries and in 2006 married his sweetheart in Illinois. The marriage didn't last, and Ziegel died in December 2012. But nobody who saw the "Marine Wedding" series will be able to forget him—or the damage wrought by war on his body, his life and his family. Joyce Carol Oates's new novel puts the homecoming of a similarly wounded warrior at its center, doing with words what the Berman portraits did with images…again and again, Oates shows how perilous it is to assign guilt, and how hard it is to draw the line between victim and perpetrator in a blurred moral landscape in which every crime, on the battlefield or on the home front, is a crime of conscience.
New York Times Book Review
“…Oates shows how perilous it is to assign guilt, and how hard it is to draw the line between victim and perpetrator in a blurred moral landscape in which every crime, on the battlefield or on the home front, is a crime of conscience.”
Daily Beast
“For pages on end it is a compelling mediation on belief, betrayal, and grief. Oates has written a good book. I’d recommend it. What does it matter if it is or is not a war novel. The best war novels aren’t war novels at all. They become something bigger.”
Washington Post
“…brilliant…amazing…. A compassionate tenderness suffuses the final sections of the book, as palpable as the cold irony with which the book begins. It’s a breathtaking effect…”
Booklist
“After her lavishly imagined, supernatural historical novel, The Accursed (2013), Oates turns in the latest of her intensely magnified studies of a family in crisis and the agony of a misfit girl.”
NPR
“Joyce Carol Oates has outdone herself.”
Lettres 2014 Readers Prize Elle
“Oates, working at the top of her formidable game, handily won over more of our readers with this raw, suspenseful, ‘real and immersive’ stream-of-consciousness tale.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“a well-told tale of family, grief and faith”
Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Irresistible page-turner and heady intellectual experience… Oates continues to make her mark as one of the greatest American writers of our time.”
Philadelphia Inquirer
“Emphatically and artfully explores the subject of physical and emotional distances between loved ones, the various expanses between who individuals are, were, or could be, and the often barely perceptible gaps between guilt and innocence.”
Roanoke Times
“…one of America’s greatest writers…”
The Barnes & Noble Review

Joyce Carol Oates, the author of over forty novels and numerous short stories, clearly demands a great deal of herself as a writer. She also asks much of her readers; that they stick with her, for example, through digressions, declamations, and repeated excavations of deformed psyches and wounded souls. The gripping first section of Oates's Carthage illustrates why, time after time, we do just that. Oates sets her snare with a fevered prologue that conjures up the "humid insect-breeding midsummer of 2005 in which Zeno Mayfield's younger daughter vanished into the Natauga State Forest Preserve with the seeming ease of a snake writhing out of its desiccated and torn outer skin." For the next 200 pages or so, the family's dread is palpable and the narrative tension relentless. "Since that minute he'd been awake in a way he was rarely awake — all of his sense alert, to the point of pain. Stark- staring awake, as if his eyelids had been removed," Oates writes of Zeno, from the moment that he and his wife, Arlette, learn that nineteen year-old Cressida is missing. Fear distorts time. "Downstairs, the lighted kitchen awaited them like a stage set ... The rapidly shrinking remnant of the night-before-dawn in the Mayfields' house had acquired an air of desperation."

A search of the forest and river near the small town of Carthage, New York, is finally abandoned, and there are reports of Cressida last being seen in a low dive, drinking with Brett Kincaid, a wounded Iraq War veteran who is also the former fiancé of Cressida's sister, Julie. Julie is "the pretty one," Cressida "the smart one" with, we later learn, "...a mean little charcoal lump of a heart." Small and sharp, disdainful of her family and friends, artistically gifted and easily slighted, Cressida is a recognizable Oates heroine, destined to suffer. Carthage, too, is familiar territory, a hard-edged town where crime is typically "a domestic fracas spilling out onto a South Carthage street, three adults and a ten year-old child killed in a blast of gunfire. Adirondack Hells Angels arrested in a methamphetamine lab raid?"

Oates powerfully evokes this corner of New York State with unadorned descriptions of its well-worn streets, its decayed gentility, and its laconic speech. "Even our wounds here are small," Julie Mayfield realizes when she welcomes home her fiancé, horribly disfigured, from Iraq. In an abrupt swerve, Oates takes us there. Through Brett's eyes, we witness atrocities carried out by his fellow soldiers, in particular the rape and murder of a young Iraqi girl, a crime that Brett naively reports only to be victimized himself.

This detour into horror, away from the vanished Cressida, whom Brett is suspected of murdering, sets the novel on an elliptical course from New York State to Florida and back, but the road, in this case, is not an escape route. Oates leaves behind Carthage and Brett's wartime flashbacks only to plunge into a different nightmare: "They'd passed the Death Row building. Cinder block with small barred windows like half- shut eyes." A small group touring a maximum security prison in Florida is led into the execution chamber, and a volunteer is invited to enter "the bathysphere—eight-sided, like a deformed circle—Robin's-egg blue: the hue of bright childlike hope." Sabbath McSwain, a young woman working for an undercover whistleblower, lies on the table and almost loses consciousness. By this point, the reader, too, has been tested by the tour guide's gleeful descriptions of botched executions and might be forgiven for skipping whole pages. Not content with evoking prison life in vivid detail (even the sky above appears "...white-glowering and opaque. Like a thin rubber film stretched tight"), Oates must also induce revulsion, a response that leaves little room for sympathy, even for Sabbath, a heroine more resilient than most.

Divided into three parts, "The Lost Girl," "Exile," and "The Return," Carthage takes us on a looping, sinuous journey; along the way Oates's language, too, veers widely — one passage may be restrained and precise, the next soaring and portentous as an incantation. With each shock and swerve, the engrossing mystery of "a solitary girl—Saturday night—a terrible blunder" fades, as do the outlines of the Mayfields and other characters that were so sharply drawn early on. When the story returns to Carthage, the focus tightens, and Zeno Mayfield in particular comes strongly into view, still vital as he clutches his "smudged tumbler of whiskey." By that stage, however, the novel seems exhausted, its tensile energy sapped by all that soaring. Like the long-suffering reader, it limps toward an unconvincingly redemptive ending.

Anna Mundow, a longtime contributor to The Irish Times and The Boston Globe, has written for The Guardian, The Washington Post, and The New York Times, among other publications.

Reviewer: Anna Mundow

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062208149
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/21/2014
  • Sold by: HARPERCOLLINS
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 512
  • Sales rank: 9,252
  • File size: 964 KB

Meet the Author

Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Medal of Humanities, 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 We Were the Mulvaneys; Blonde, which was nominated for the National Book Award; and the New York Times bestseller The Accursed. 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.

Biography

Joyce Carol Oates is one of the most influential and important storytellers in the literary world. She has often used her supreme narrative skills to examine the dark side of middle-class Americana, and her oeuvre includes some of the finest examples of modern essays, plays, criticism, and fiction from a vast array of genres. She is still publishing with a speed and consistency of quality nearly unheard of in contemporary literature.

A born storyteller, Oates has been spinning yarns since she was a little girl too young to even write. Instead, she would communicate her stories through drawings and paintings. When she received her very first typewriter at the age of 14, her creative floodgates opened with a torrent. She says she wrote "novel after novel" throughout high school and college -- a prolificacy that has continued unabated throughout a professional career that began in 1963 with her first short story collection, By the North Gate.

Oates's breakthrough occurred in 1969 with the publication of them, a National Book Award winner that established her as a force to be reckoned with. Since that auspicious beginning, she has been nominated for nearly every major literary honor -- from the PEN/Faulkner Award to the Pulitzer Prize -- and her fiction turns up with regularity on The New York Times annual list of Notable Books.

On average Oates publishes at least one novel, essay anthology, or story collection a year (during the 1970s, she produced at the astonishing rate of two or three books a year!). And although her fiction often exposes the darker side of America's brightest facades – familial unrest, sexual violence, the death of innocence – she has also made successful forays into Gothic novels, suspense, fantasy, and children's literature. As novelist John Barth once remarked, "Joyce Carol Oates writes all over the aesthetical map."

Where she finds the time for it no one knows, but Oates manages to combine her ambitious, prolific writing career with teaching: first at the University of Windsor in Canada, then (from 1978 on), at Princeton University in New Jersey. For all her success and fame, her daily routine of teaching and writing has changed very little, and her commitment to literature as a transcendent human activity remains steadfast.

Good To Know

When not writing, Oates likes to take in a fight. "Boxing is a celebration of the lost religion of masculinity all the more trenchant for its being lost," she says in highbrow fashion of the lowbrow sport.

Oates's Black Water, which is a thinly veiled account of Ted Kennedy's car crash in Chappaquiddick, was produced as an opera in the 1990s.

In 2001, Oprah Winfrey selected Oates's novel We Were the Mulvaneys for her Book Club.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Rosamond Smith
    2. Hometown:
      Princeton, New Jersey
    1. Date of Birth:
      June 16, 1938
    2. Place of Birth:
      Lockport, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., Syracuse University, 1960; M.A., University of Wisconsin, 1961

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 9 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(4)

4 Star

(1)

3 Star

(1)

2 Star

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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2014

    Dull

    Boring. Repetative slog through overbearing, over written, condescending tripe about love, war, and humanity.

    3 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2014

    i haven't read the book yet but having grown up not far from Car

    i haven't read the book yet but having grown up not far from Carthage i fell the need to say that it is NOT in the Adirondacks, although they are not far, and it is NOT in Appalachia! some of these reviewers need to check the map!

    2 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2014

    Author is burnt out case

    Same old same old and could this be another hidden ghost writter without credit?

    2 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 14, 2014

    5 stars

    Joyce Carol Oates cuts to the bone! I couldn't put this one down.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2014

    because nobody

    Kkkiiio

    1 out of 58 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2014

    I thought this book was brilliant.

    I thought this book was brilliant.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2014

    Awesome book

    Awesome book

    0 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2014

    Alright

    I cant wait to read because it about war, love ,humanity and more

    0 out of 19 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews

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