This is the first book in a quartet Oates wrote when she was young, and it is both like and not like her more recent writings. While the focus of the book is still on a woman (Clara) and the choices she makes to get by, much of the story revolves around and is told from the perspective of the men in her life -- father, son, husband, lover, etc.
This book isn't quite as dark as I have come to expect from her writing, though that is not to say it is a happy story. For the second half of the book, it felt as though Clara had more control over her life than I usually feel Oates' female characters do (though one can always argue she was "choosing to choose" her only options). In any case, I recommend this -- it was an interesting, compelling story.