The Barrensby Joyce Carol Oates
In this gripping psychological thriller, Joyce Carol Oates, New York Times best-selling author and one of the most versatile and original voices in contemporary American fiction, delivers a startling, complex tale of a serial killer and the people that his ghastly crimes touchand transform. People like Matt McBride. Matt was barely out of junior high when the… See more details below
In this gripping psychological thriller, Joyce Carol Oates, New York Times best-selling author and one of the most versatile and original voices in contemporary American fiction, delivers a startling, complex tale of a serial killer and the people that his ghastly crimes touchand transform. People like Matt McBride. Matt was barely out of junior high when the mutilated body of the first victima popular, pretty teenagerwas uncovered in the desolate New Jersey Pine Barrens. Although he had hardly known the girl, Matt has long felt guilty at not having been able somehow to prevent the atrocity. Now another attractive young woman has disappeared, and Matt knew this victim, too. Just possibly he knew her more intimately than he is prepared to admit. By degrees Matt becomes obsessed with a guilt he can neither comprehend nor assuage. His seemingly happy marriage begins to deteriorate, while his increasingly erratic behavior heightens police suspicions. It also draws official attention away from an artista man of limited talent but of fierce, demented visionwho signs his work Name Unknown. Under the spell of the missing woman, Matt follows a path that leads him out of the maze of tortured memory to a confrontation with not only the baleful Name Unknown but also his own long-unacknowledged self. The outcome is shattering. With “murder as an art and the serial killer as an artist,” National Book Awardwinner Joyce Carol Oates shows “how a murderer’s savage creations ... transform a man’s life.”Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times “Oates fans may judge [The Barrens] the best Smith novel yet.”Boston Herald
Read an Excerpt
Where she'd died wasn't where she would be found. That was one of the few facts they would learn.
A coastal marsh near the south Jersey shore, at the edge of the Pine Barrens. Where the incoming tide lifts the body, buoys it up then surrenders it by degrees back to the marsh. Like sleeping it must seem. To the dead girl. This slow rhythmic rising and ebbing, rising and ebbing of the tide. Like breathing. A stinging northeast wind off the Atlantic pushing through cattails, seagrass. By night, by day. Dusk, dawn. A ceaseless wind. A rain-swollen sky. Even by day the swamp is shadows. When the tide returns the body seems to awaken, floating again in shallow brackish water that has frozen on its surface, and now thaws, a dark glitter thin as the thinnest glass. A stippled surface in which filaments of cloud are reflected dimly. By night, a glaring full moon. High-scudding broken clouds. As if part of the sky had been dislodged and was being blown from one pole to the other. Always the wind, always the tide! While the naked, broken body lies on its back in the posture of sleep. Head turned too sharply to one side. The mouth is opened in a mute scream. A paralyzed scream. The mouth is a hole ridged in blood. The nose has been smashed, the jaws broken. The eyes are open in their blackened sockets, sightless. Long tangled hair rippling like seaweed when the coastal water returns. Always the tide returns, twice daily, in a quickened current, in gushes. The sun burns through the mist, the body is exposed. A dead body is a broken thing. Among so many broken things. Stumps of dead trees, dead vines. The naked, broken body is stirred by the incoming tide as if waking, returning to life. But scummy with coagulated blood. Dark patches defacing the body like swaths of tar. Bony wrists and ankles bound by wire. The lacerated throat bound by wire cutting so deep into the flesh the wire isn't visible. Gulls swooping overhead, darting, stabbing with their sharp curved beaks. Their high, excited cries. Who would love this body now, who would dream of this body now?
Who would touch this body, now?
Excerpted from THE BARRENS by JOYCE CAROL OATES. Copyright © 2001 by Joyce Carol Oates. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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