The Rise of Life on Earth
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The Rise of Life on Earth

3.46 of 5 stars 3.46  ·  rating details  ·  195 ratings  ·  16 reviews
Selected by The New York Times Book Review as one of the most notable books of 1991, Joyce Carol Oates's The Rise of Life on Earth is a memorable portrait of one of the "insulted and injured" of American society. Set in the underside of working-class Detroit of the '60s and '70s, this short, lyric novel sketches Kathleen Hennessy's violent childhood - shattered by a broken...more
Paperback, 142 pages
Published September 17th 1992 by New Directions (first published 1991)
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Pamela Scott
JCO uses a somewhat cold, distant narrator for The Rise of Life on Earth. Kathleen’s tragic tale is told in a neutral, almost chilling voice. The narration reminded me of someone just repeating facts without letting feelings get in the way. I’ve not really read any fiction where the narrator is so distant from the chapters and doesn’t attempt to create any emotion. It reminded me a little of American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. I expected the detached narration to create a lack of emotion but t...more
Phenomenal style, story, imagination: typical JCO.

JCO gives brutal details of the abuse inflicted on the main character as a child and again as an adult, so vivid you'd think she was there to witness it. Somehow she manages to fully develop this character in less than 150 pages.
I first encountered the work of Joyce Carol Oates when I was taking an undergraduate course in Women's Studies in 1974. It was a time of great change for women and the books we read in that class opened up my eyes. We read Simone de Beauvoir, Fay Weldon, Betty Friedan and Doris Lessing, among others but the ones that affected me most were Oates' stories and novels. The immediacy, violence and passion were unlike anything I had ever read and her characters truly breathed on the pages. Terrible th...more
This is a short novel by Oates that focuses on a young girl, orphaned, alone, and consistently mistreated by others but remains stoic at her job as a nurse aide until she finds herself pregnant and abandoned. Then she takes matters into her own hand.
Linda Lipko
This powerful tale of neglect and abuse lasting throughout the life of Kathleen Hennessy is told with a methodical, detached voice by the author.

Pulling the reader into the tragic life of an everyday hard-working. overlooked and pathetic like person, we see the emotional scars that prevail and lurk beneath the surface to erupt in random acts of revenge.

Yet another dark tale by Joyce Carol Oates, still, worth the read because of the deep knowledge and psychological depiction of the down trodden...more
A powerful tale about the dark psychological abyss inside of a tortured soul. Kathleen grew up knowing nothing but violence and abuse and although it seems she is a shy, friendly, good woman darkness and anger are always close to the surface of her mind. It's a chilling if not entirely pleasant read - there are just too many deliberately gross depictions of violence here.

Oats really knows how to describe the psychological trauma that leads Kathleen to be the "angel" hiding very dark secrets and...more
Bruce Reid
Novella length is about perfect for Oates; she can pack more ideas in than the bitter sting of her short stories allow, but the unrelieved misery and misanthropy don't have quite enough space to overwhelm. Though at 135 pages this may have the highest disturbing-sexual-imagery-to-page-count ratio of any of her works, and the last chapter is as grueling a read as I know. An autopsy of the "terrible secret strength of those whom the human world has made invisible," probably most horrific when it's...more
I read this on Christmas morning. It was horrible.

The book is full of violence - I skipped many pages - which is unusual for me.

I do not believe that the characters are well developed. I do not see how the protagonist loves the doctor - there is no suggestion of love at all - instead it is a warped dependency.

I do not find the plot credible and have no empathy for any character.I only finished the book as it was so short and I hoped that there would be some good at the end - but this was not th...more
'I and the public know/ What all school children learn/ Those to whom evil is done/ Do evil in return.'

It passed my test for compelling fiction by causing me to be late for work in order to finish reading it. It is a catalogue of horrors, a shocking portrait of what they once called the 'passive/ aggressive' personality.
Here's another Oates book I had to get rid of after i read it. Her writing is good as always, but the subject of this book is almost as monstrous as the one in Zombie! So she got jilted, so what? That's no reason to infect a whole hospital. See if I ever go under the knife.
I gave it 5 stars no so much because I really liked it but rather because it was so well written and emotionally heart wrenching..She really brings the character to life ... the story is very distrubing...and the ending is brutal...
One of my favorite writers! The violence, the injustice, the cruelty of life - it's all in this short book (really a long short story). Not for the faint of heart...but brilliant nonetheless.
Jessica Doyle
This is an extremely disturbing book but life is disturbing at times. Joyce Carol Oates writes about people in society that no one wants to think about, and I respect her for that.
For... the... Kathleen's [sobbing uncontrollably]. But what the fuck, you know?

JCO is high maintenance but she's not a tease.
Very disturbing short novel...packs a powerful punch.
This book reads with such force
B Sad but typical early Joyce
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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
More about Joyce Carol Oates...
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