"Intriguing and bitingly ironic.... It's impossible to resist the pull of Oates' lush narrative.... Unforgettable." Publishers Weekly
"Oates's most inventive and entertaining yet.... Irresistibly comic.... One of the most inviting products of Oates's incomparably rich imagination." Kirkus Reviews
Joyce Carol Oates has been hailed as "a fearless writer...with impossibly lush and dead-on imaginative power" (Los Angeles Times Book Review). Her unwavering curiosity about human nature has been described as "one of the great artistic forces of our time" (The Nation). The New York Times reports: "What keeps us coming back to Oates country is her uncanny gift of making the page a window, with something happening on the other side that we'd swear was life itself."
In My Heart Laid Bare, Oates embarks on a striking, surprising new direction: This is a sweeping, mythical novel of the fortunes and misfortunes of a family of enterprising con artists in 19th-century America. Epic in scope, it is Oates's most daring work yet, a stunning tale of crime and transgression, and of a mysterious and tragic woman whose secret history ricochets from one century to another with profound moral consequences.
The novel begins in 1891. The man is Abraham Licht, a confidence man who has arrived in the marshy environs of Old Muirkirk, the site of a lost colony of Dutch settlers who vanished without a trace in the 1640s. Abraham's mission is to establish his criminal dynasty. Thurston and Harwood, his two sons, emulatetheirdashing father, only to be drawn into heinous murder. Beautiful Millicent, her father's equal in the Game, is his superior in the more dangerous game of family control. Elisha, the adopted son, Abraham's true heir in talent and ambition, has been cruelly banished from his father's love.
Each of Licht's offspring will strike out on his or her own, taking the story to regions and realms as diverse as the political backrooms of Washington, D.C., the Atlantic City of the Gilded Age, the rough-and-tumble of the western frontier, Carnegie Hall, and Harlem in the '20s and '30s. The sinister Abraham Licht will live to see the dark, unholy secrets of the soul bared at last, as brother turns against brother, lover against lover, blood against blood.
My Heart Laid Bare presents a brand-new version of American history in which the sins of one century resonate in the next, with dramatic consequences. It is a sumptuous, sinuous novel of brilliant invention with a mesmerizing narrative voice. At the center is an unforgettable family, as strongly possessed of the power to deceive as they are of the power to love.