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The Stolen Heart

The Stolen Heart

by Lauren Kelly, Joyce Carol Oates

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From Lauren Kelly, "a writer of formidable talent" (Scott Turow), comes the page-turning story of Merilee Graf, whose past and present mysteries converge in a revelation too painful, and too shocking, for her to accept.

Sixteen years ago, a vivacious fifth-grade classmate of Merilee Graf was abducted from a park in Mt. Olive, New York. Haunted by the


From Lauren Kelly, "a writer of formidable talent" (Scott Turow), comes the page-turning story of Merilee Graf, whose past and present mysteries converge in a revelation too painful, and too shocking, for her to accept.

Sixteen years ago, a vivacious fifth-grade classmate of Merilee Graf was abducted from a park in Mt. Olive, New York. Haunted by the memory of the eleven-year-old "gypsy-looking" girl whose disappearance has never been explained, Merilee returns home to keep a vigil at the bedside of her dying father, a prosperous importer of exotic goods and a former, popular mayor of the upstate New York town on the Chautauqua River. After Mr. Graf's death, Merilee finds herself an "heiress" in more ways than one as she becomes involved, with both dread and fascination, with two very different men from her Mt. Olive past — the elusive older brother of her missing classmate and her own seductive "Uncle Jedah," executor of her father's estate. Past and present mysteries converge in a revelation too painful, and too shocking, for Merilee to accept, and in a sudden act of reckless courage she frees herself of the terrifying obsessions of the past.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Kelly (Take Me, Take Me with You), a pseudonymous "best-selling and award-winning author," serves up a studiously stylized novel about sex, abuse and grief that's oddly compelling while also being overwrought and exasperatingly repetitive. Narrated by Merilee Graf, the 26-year-old only child of a successful importer of exotic goods in Mount Olive, N.Y., the story flashes back and forth between Merilee's hazy recollections of the past (when she was 10, her "colored" fifth-grade classmate Lilac Jimson vanished) and the present (Merilee returns home to attend to her dying father). Lilac's disappearance disturbs Merilee anew when she bumps into Lilac's older brother, Roosevelt, in the hospital; Roosevelt had been the recipient of a Police Academy scholarship donated by Merilee's father as well as a brief high school obsession of Merilee's. Later, after her father's death, Merilee is hysterical about the loss of a glass heart she'd given him, but entranced by her mysterious Uncle Jedah, her father's right-hand man and now the executor of the estate she's inherited. Readers know some dark and terrible secret connecting Lilac's disappearance and Merilee's father or uncle will be uncovered, but Merilee's such an ineffectual person it's hard to imagine she'll figure out what she needs to in time. Bottom line: overheated and creepy. (June) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Second pseudonymous novel from Kelly (Take Me, Take Me With You, 2004), this one about an unstable, vulnerable young woman probing the losses in her life for patterns or larger meanings. Short, skittish first-person cuts follow an idiosyncratic pattern of remembered moments. An event from childhood looms large in the memory of Merilee Graf, 26, a small-town girl from upstate New York who now lives in Manhattan. One day in 1988, her African-American classmate Lilac Jimson disappeared-a victim, it was believed, of sexual abuse and/or murder. Even more than the facts, the secrecy and rumors surrounding the event made it provocative for Merilee, a "good" girl who was expected not to even associate with a black kid from the wrong side of the tracks. In the present, Merilee returns home to Mt. Olive to see her dying father, once a vital and handsome businessman, world traveler and the town's mayor. Mother died four years ago, father and daughter were never close, but he's genuinely moved when she gives him a valuable and delicate glass heart: "Gifts you give out of love. Gifts you give out of the sickest guilt. This gift to my father . . . was both." At the hospital, Merilee runs into Lilac's imposing brother Roosevelt, who triggers memories and speculation about Lilac. These evocative flashbacks depict the fruitless public search, which continued for months, as well as overheard snippets of adult conversations (clucking Aunt Cameron is a regular contributor) about the situation. Ever since that time, Merilee has lived in persistent fear that a similar fate might befall her. When her father dies, long-lost Uncle Jedah arrives to serve as the estate's executor. He immediately fancies himself asurrogate father, but his relationship with Merilee proves to have many disturbing and surprising wrinkles. A haunting portrait of grief and psychological fragility.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.54(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Stolen Heart
A Novel of Suspense

Chapter One


She'd been taken it was said.

Not said aloud! Not in our hearing.

But if you listened. If you listened hard. If you listened past the scared sound of your heart beating. That low rumbling sound like thunder. Taken!

A girl had been taken. From Highlands Park. I knew where that was. I knew who the girl was. We were not supposed to know, yet. We were too young to know. We were very quiet, we did not want to be taken, too. The girl who'd been taken had not been a quiet girl but giggly and squirmy and unpredictable in her behavior. I saw a giant bird descending from the sky to punish her. I saw the sky darken with the giant bird's outspread wings and bared talons and I saw Lilac Jimson seized in those talons and lifted screaming into the sky.

Taken where?

It was May 1988. I was ten years old. I was in fifth grade at Thomas Jefferson Elementary. I was not a close friend of Lilac Jimson. I saw Lilac running with her brother Roosevelt after school. Roosevelt was older than Lilac, and taller. And Lilac was a year older than me but not taller. Different cleaning ladies came to our house on Lincoln Avenue and one of them used to be Lilac's mother who was called Alina and who spoke in a strange way, it was hard to understand. When someone said That little gypsy-looking girl it was Lilac Jimson they meant. That little colored girl with the tooth. Because Lilac had a gold tooth that flashed when she smiled. Lilac had tight-braided dark hair and skin like creamy cocoa and beautiful sparkly-black eyes. I wanted to be Lilac Jimson's friend but there was some strangeness between us, Lilac laughed and smiled at everybody but not at me. Lilac's sparkly eyes just jumped over me like I wasn't there. I was hurt, I didn't understand. Maybe it had to do with Lilac's mother who'd used to clean our house but now another woman, a black woman, cleaned our house. Maybe Lilac's mother had told her not to like me because I was Mr. Graf 's daughter and because I lived in that big cobblestone house on Lincoln Avenue with all the trees. I wanted to invite Lilac home with me but I knew that Lilac would laugh and turn away without hearing me. Lilac was so pretty! -- the only girl who could climb the ropes in gym class, like a little monkey, to the ceiling. Lilac was the first girl at Thomas Jefferson Elementary to get pierced ears, when she was ten. Lilac was a girl to be scolded for being "wiggly" in her desk but our teacher laughed saying this, you could see Miss Hansen liked Lilac Jimson. But now suddenly Lilac Jimson was That poor little girl who was taken from the park nobody knows where maybe in the river the latest is police are questioning her own father isn't that tragic.

The Stolen Heart
A Novel of Suspense
. Copyright © by Lauren Kelly. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Lauren Kelly is one pseudonym of Joyce Carol Oates, a recipient of the National Book Award and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction. Oates's most recent novel, The Falls, was a New York Times Notable Book, a Washington Post Best Book of 2004, and a Chicago Tribune Top Ten Book of 2004. She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of Humanities at Princeton University and has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978. In 2003 she was a recipient of the Commonwealth Award for Distinguished Service in Literature. In 2005 she was awarded France's Prix Femina for The Falls.

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