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My Heart Laid Bare
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My Heart Laid Bare (The Gothic Saga #4)

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  387 ratings  ·  36 reviews
My Heart Laid Bare is a striking departure for Joyce Carol Oates: a sweeping saga of the fortunes and misfortunes of a family of enterprising confidence artists in 19th-century America. Mythic in scope, ballad-like in the telling, it is Oates's most daring work yet -- a stunning tale of crime and transgression -- with profound moral consequences.Oates's picture of America ...more
Paperback, 532 pages
Published July 1st 1999 by Plume (first published 1998)
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Community Reviews

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This tale of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century escapades of a family of con artists is a departure for Oates in terms of its setting, if not its theme and tone. More known for tough, tragic stories set in the contemporary world or the recent past, Oates takes advantage of the sweep and turbulence of the decades on either side of 1900 to address classic themes: love, loss, ambition, envy, loyalty, betrayal, and the myriad other forces that draw families together and pull them apart. ...more
God, JCO. I do love you. I wanted this book to be epic. There were times, mostly in the first half, where I genuinely believed this was going to be a brilliant novel. There were times when I just couldn't put it down - when I got so wrapped up in schemes and reveals and characters' motivations that I would whip through 50 pages in one sitting (a lot for me, for those of you tsk-tsking). But every time I hit one of these 50-page runs, they were eventually followed by another 50 pages that took me ...more
My Heart Laid Bare is a creation from an epic imagination — what a beautiful thing for a writer to enjoy, especially to use it to produce something so grand is a labor of love. Joyce Carol Oates is quite the creative dynamo — I’ve lost count of how many stories she’s written, and I have yet to buy let alone read all of them. One thing for sure, she loves words, she comes out to play with them; part of her process is becoming possessed by the story that she must tell — wringing out every last oun ...more
This is my first introduction to Oates. It is a period piece set in the early 1900's. I'm hoping she purposely chose to write in a style that was indicative to the times. If this is how she normally writes I'm going to have a tough time with her other books.
The book is about a family of con-artists that stumbles through life hoping to achieve infinite wealth and stumbling along the way. They are never honest with anyone or even themselves making the title ironic. Their plots and schemes are cer
May 15, 2011 Sandra added it
I can't give it a proper synopsis because I read it quite some years ago. However, it is my favorite book ever. I concede that the first few chapters are hard to get through because they seem so disconnected. Everyone I've given it to I advised to just try to get through to chapter 5 and you will be hooked. It was such a sweeping, epic novel and the intricacies of all the family members was astounding. Such a fantastic book! It really should be on required reading lists, if not in high school, t ...more
I have a feeling Joyce Carol Oates doesn't have a very high opinion of society. Her characters (across many of her novels) tend not to be likable but that's what makes them so realistic. She delves deep into their inner monologues, revealing their most heinous and perplexing thoughts. I love it. Combined with a damn good story (a family of con artists in the early 20th century), this is easily my favorite Oates novel. Even despite the number of times she utilizes the word "breathless." Seriously ...more
L.K. Merideth
A great read! I not only enjoyed the process of reading this book, but the story was fantastic as well! The use of language and word craft was spectacular. In one passage, describing a swamp, the author slings out a few 150 word sentences. The reader is forced to take in the description of the surroundings all at once - and is left somewhat breathless.

The story of the confidence artist and his family was so engaging. By the middle of the book, I couldn’t help wondering where they would turn up
May 04, 2008 Don rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone with solid chunks of reading time
While I did enjoy this novel, I found it struggled to consistently retain my attention. Set around the turn of the last century, Heart is about a confidence man and a confidence family. Interesting character observations revolve around the lives of the children and their intricate, unpredictable and often volatile relationship with the father and protagonist. There is a subtle subtext how powerful parental influence is; equally in harmony as in dissent.

Though fictionalized and contemporarily au
Charles M.
This popular author really takes a sidestep from her regular plots, in decsribing the swindling life of Abraham Licht, as he moves across 19th century America going through his many scams. Very different for Oates!
Kira Fisher
i enjoyed this book more than the other JCO books i've read, but i noticed i didn't want to finish it. she's so hard on her character, and i didn't want them all to end up destroyed and broken like i felt she was headed towards, so i stopped and i never finished. that says a lot about my own preferences in literature, but it also speaks to my prevailing sense of JCO as a bit of a downer. i seldom look forward to picking up a book that has no hope of ending well. i just don't.and while i haven't ...more
I just finished this recently. It was one of those books that took me a year to read because I kept putting it down and picking it up. The story is fantastic: turn-of-the-century American family of confidence men (and women) who hatch various daring schemes, not to make money, per se, but to prove their mastery of "The Game." The book is funny and cynical at times, but also deeply emotional and a little sad. My only complaint is that Oates's style here is a little convoluted and exhausting--it m ...more
"The Game is never to be played as if it were but a game when it is in fact life."

I had a hard time getting into the book, but I have read so little from this time period that I wanted to keep going. At times the asides into different character's goings on made it hard to concentrate.

Another theme I liked was a character's realization that when you get your wish you realize it's not really your wish and no longer true. For me the book is a growing-up tale about how family changes and even thoug
jojo the burlesque poetess
damn you depressing addictive lady. i'm so surprised she isn't compared to the faulkner school more often. or is she? she is faulkner meets magical realism. in my book anyway, she and louise erdrich are the only ones who can weave such spells and story snippets into a novel...

anyway this is a novel emerging out of a series of erotic/mysterious con-artist tales, she really has mastered a 19th century voice of skepticism and voyeurism marvelously well. i'm barely 100 pages in and still am just lea
Marianne Wassmer
Another great read by Joyce Carol Oates, easily my favorite author. Dazzling, complex and gothic.
Lolly LKH
There are so many reviews of this book, I just have to say the style is different from all her usual stuff and this novel is much more depressing than anything else she's written. I wasn't as in love with this novel as all the others. I would certainly advise people that have never read her work to start with anything else but this or they may be put off by her. It's not bad at all, it's just not her usual style that so many of us have come to love.
I couldn't get into this book. I only liked one character. I kept reading thinking it would pique my interest at some point and never did. It's basically about a family who's father is a con artist and tries to teach his children the skills of the con artist. Mixed into that are mystical / magical occurances that seemed to me out of place. Not one of my best picks from the Falmouth Book Fair.
Lorena Drapeau
i just don't like oates. this was her third chance and even though i liked this better than the others i read i just can't get into her writing style.
if anyone has a suggestion as to the BEST oates i would love to hear it. i REALLY REALLY REALLY wanted to like her because she has so much material out there that i figured she could keep me good and busy. but no such luck....
Oates has written over 30 novels; I've read about half of them. She is a consummate pro - her prose seems effortless, but is still rich and peppered with good ideas. And her breadth of plot is admirable. What I particularly liked about this one is that she initiated several subplots along with the main plot, and brought all of them to a sound conclusion.
This is one of Oates' more illustrious novels, one I would recommend to a newcomer looking to explore her work and worlds. Elucidates on themes of con artistry, family, race relations from England to the Mid-Atlantic Region in the late 1800s to Harlem in the '20s.brrilliant prose and very quotable. I couldn't put this book down, something to get lost in.
This was the first Joyce Carol Oates book that I've read. It's one of my favorite books of all time, but apparently a departure from Oates' usual work. I picked up several other Oates books after reading this one and didn't like any of them. So perhaps not the best book for fans of Oates, but great if you've never read any of her work before.
Jul 26, 2011 Julie added it
Another one I couldn't get into...the first few pages were confusing and I wasn't able to enjoy my time spent reading or get into the story. Also took this one back to the library unfinished.
Very entertaining - read this on a vacation in S. Carolina. Loved and horrified by the part when the son's organs are delivered in pretty boxes. Will never forget that...
I always forget how difficult her books can be to read. The plot was interesting and I wanted to know how it came out, but it took an awfully long time to work through.
am loving this book. looks like it will become one of my favorite joyce carol oates books to date (not that i've read even a fraction of them).
A very nice twist on the con artist tale. A family of con artists turn out well despite the best effort of the father, who is a master con.
Good, but not stunning. A JCO book is always enjoyable, but it's definitely not one of my favorites by her.
Jennifer Batinich
This might be one of my favs from her. Period piece about a family of con artists? I'm in.
This book is quite a departure for JCO and is not my favorite, although, I do still like it a lot.
Shara Davis
Oh I do love Joyce Carol Oates and this is probably one of my favorites.
Meh. First half of the book grabbed me; last half was torture.
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Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Book Award and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction. She is also the recipient of the 2005 Prix Femina for The Falls. She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University, and she has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978. Pseudonyms ... Rosamond Smith and Laure ...more
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Other Books in the Series

The Gothic Saga (5 books)
  • Bellefleur
  • A Bloodsmoor Romance
  • Mysteries of Winterthurn
  • The Accursed
We Were the Mulvaneys The Falls The Gravedigger's Daughter Blonde Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang

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