Alison's Reviews > them

them by Joyce Carol Oates
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Jun 16, 09

bookshelves: fiction
Read in June, 2009

I'm not really sure what I thought of this book - I didn't quite like it, but it was better than just OK (I'd prefer to give it 2.5 stars). Part of this is probably because I read most of it while I was a little out of it over the weekend, due to my poor (nonexistent?) ability to deal with the humidity & heat down here. I probably owe it a re-read someday.

Anyway, this is the third book in Oates' Wonderland series. This one follows members of the Wendall family -- mom Loretta, daughter Maureen and son Jules -- in Detroit in the 50s and 60s. There is lots of abuse and questionable behavior from all parties. Here, as in many of her books and stories, most of the women seem to be unable or unwilling to take control of their lives. The women especially are constantly making connections with men because that is the only way they can see a way forward in life, and naturally they make mostly bad choices.

A lot of the book reads like a fever dream (which is heightened if you are kind of out of it due to the heat & humidity and need of a good night's sleep -- very weird experience), especially passages from Jules' point of view. I was never quite sure if it was caused because he was high or if it was just the way he thought (sometimes it was clear that it was because he hadn't eaten that day, so maybe this was the case a lot of the time?).

I don't think I would necessarily recommend this to people who aren't already fans of Oates, but if you like something that is occasionally a little bit surreal, and features characters whose main personality traits are magnified to caricature, you might like this.
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