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Carthage: A Novel

3.40  ·  Rating details ·  4,475 ratings  ·  655 reviews
New York Times Bestselling Author

A young girl’s disappearance rocks a community and a family, in this stirring examination of grief, faith, justice, and the atrocities of war, the latest from literary legend Joyce Carol Oates

Zeno Mayfield’s daughter has disappeared into the night, gone missing in the wilds of the Adirondacks. But when the community of Carthage joins a
Paperback, 512 pages
Published November 4th 2014 by Ecco (first published January 21st 2014)
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Karen Read by a favored narrator of mine, Lucy Price-Lewis’ characterizations are expertly enacted. I wanted to like this, I really did. I am struggling to …moreRead by a favored narrator of mine, Lucy Price-Lewis’ characterizations are expertly enacted. I wanted to like this, I really did. I am struggling to finish these “Letters.” (less)
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Average rating 3.40  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,475 ratings  ·  655 reviews

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Feb 23, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
There are plenty of plot synopses available at this point, so I'm going to focus my review on just my thoughts about the book.

I really wanted to find another way to describe my feelings about Carthage other than "I hated it", but that is truly the most honest. I struggled to pick it up, read it, and get through it. The only reason I kept plugging away is that I was hoping to get a satisfying resolution to the story, but I felt like it just petered out and I didn't even get that.

The reasons for m
Eric Anderson
Feb 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reading a long epic novel by Oates is a wholly immersive experience. I became fully lost in this book, grew to love the uniquely individual characters and spent a lot of time contemplating the intellectual and emotional conundrums that the author presents. It’s a dramatic, extraordinary story that explores large subjects like the Iraq war, the American penitentiary system, alcoholism and spousal abuse. Yet, the main thrust of the tale is a deeply personal story of a family that’s been splintered ...more
Mar 11, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is the truth as I imagine it: Joyce Carol Oates, so full of words that they tumble out of her and so she has to just put them places. Into novels, that’s the obvious answer. When they’re coming too quickly to sort, poems. Tweets, that’s healthy, too. Then there are the looped letters in the foggy mirror and etchings with her thumb nail into the soft wood of park benches.

She’s a different kind of person’s Stephen King. Or maybe she’s the same person’s kind of Stephen King, but in a differen
Diane S ☔
3.5 Had a hard time with this one, there were many parts I liked but at the same time I felt this was to wordy. Using stream of consciousness in some places, and a narrative voice in others, this novel is told in many different voices. The father, both daughters, the mother and the war veteran suffering from PTSD. When their 19 yr. old daughter goes missing, the last person seen with her is the vet. Her older sister's ex- fiance, he has come back terrifically wounded from the war, both mentally ...more

Cressida Mayfield, a troubled, immature 19-year-old college student, goes missing from the small city of Carthage, New York.

Brett Kincaid, a badly injured, decorated Iraq war veteran who was previously engaged to Cressida's sister Juliet, is suspected of being involved in the disappearance.

Cressida's parents, Zeno and Arlette, are shattered by the tragedy as is Brett's embittered, neurotic mother, who accuses all and sundry of wronging her "war hero" son. We find out about the lives of these
Jan 30, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At one point, I feared I might end up disliking this book as much as I disliked "The Accursed." The point came mid-story via a switch from upstate New York to Florida, a displacement so jarring I suffered mental whiplash.

Once I understood the reason, I overcame my emotional emergency and settled back into the novel— as much as one settles into a JCO novel. She is not a settling-in writer, not by a long shot. Oates is about as settling as sitting on a porcupine while scorpions dance around your
Feb 22, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
What an odd novel.
For one thing, the characters sounded like educated cavemen. I know that sounds oxymoronic, but I don't know how else to capture the stilted, self conscious, unnatural yet often high falutin prose. For another, the most interesting part of the story was not at all handled, and the rest of it was an incredible boring build up to it.
Carthage is about a rather unlikable and strange young woman who goes missing and how the family falls apart. This one had a bit of a twist but the e
This heartbreaking tale focuses upon a dysfunctional community which morally tears itself apart after a murder takes place. The death of a younger daughter for the Mayfield Family leads to emotional scars that cannot be healed.

The highlights of this novel are the wonderful yet poignant thoughts of many characters impacted by the murder. It helps to understand PTSD or the actions of one of the main characters won't make sense.

Any tale that can bring tears to a generally emotionally controlled pe
Strangely I have a tendency to first want to read the books that are not acclaimed - the “lesser children” of otherwise known and appreciated authors … So Carthage was my first book by Joyce Carol Oates and to be honest I didn’t expect much. The lukewarm average review, a thriller… but on sale, so in a way, faith has decided :-). All that has changed completely, when the characters began to take over the story….

A psychological damage can came about in so many ways. Sometimes it is violence or wa
Jo Dervan
Nov 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book, reminiscent of We Were the Mulvaneys, is about how a single incident wrecks the lives of a whole family. This book is set in upstate NY, the scene o other books by this author. The affluent Mayfield family has two daughters, Juliet and Cressida. Juliet, older and the prettier of the two, is engaged to her boyfriend, Brett, who is serving the army in Iraq. However he returns home severely wounded in both body and mind.
Juliet accepts his condition and is willing to help him through his
This will teach me to pick up a Joyce Carol Oates book, expecting to like it. I don't actually like her style - too cloying by half. She writes about victims (in their minds they are, at least), and she writes it in stream of conscience style. This lack of plot and half-hearted prose probably explains her high output. But, it resembles nothing so much as verbal diarrhea.

I really HATED the main characters - all of them seem to have one personality trait (or flaw), and they never deviate despite t
Feb 17, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary-fiction
I don't really know where to start describing this book, but here goes. CARTHAGE is an ambitious novel, in terms of subject matter and even language. For me, I am sad to say, it is not successful on either account.
What really disappointed me was the cool distance from emotional connection ever present in the book. The subjects presented - PTSD, trauma, loss, grief, etc. - are ones that should evoke deep feeling and involvement, yet the style of writing, the blandness of the characters (speaking
Jan 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-literary
Joyce Carol Oates is the Cormack McCarthy of the psyche. McCarthy uses his inside voice to explore the existential bleakness of the human condition; Oates uses her outside voice to explore the mind filled with angst, anger, and pain.

It is 2005 and nineteen-year old Cressida Mayfield is missing in a state park near Carthage, NY. In the very beginning, Cressida speaks to us from her lostness. Her older sister’s fiancé is somehow implicated, but his body and mind have been so scarred in Iraq that
Roman Clodia
Jan 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a searing and devastating novel of guilt and redemption, themes often treated in fiction but not always with the cool, perceptive eye of an Oates.

The writing takes us into the heads of characters and gives an emotional intimacy that is as disturbing as it is effective. A brilliant book.
Jan 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Carthage is not an easy novel, not a story you simply read from beginning to end. The story is gathered from fragments of thoughts and emotion, from brief glimpses into the lives of the Mayfield family and the life of a young veteran of the Iraq war. Oates explores the nature of forgiveness and redemption, the lies we tell to ourselves, and to each other, how we construct our lives and how we project the image of ourselves to our families, friends and community, and essentially how we live with ...more
Feb 20, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of those books that I feel bad giving 3 stars to because it's well written and well thought out and relatively well characterized. It doesn't really seem right to rate it the same as many of the silly cozy mysteries that I read.

But, I can't really go higher.

It's the story of a family torn apart by the disappearance of the younger daughter, allegedly at the hands of the older daughter's fiancé, a wounded Iraq war veteran. I really can't go into much more about the storyline without sp
Somewhere between 3 and 4 stars.

Lets start with the positive:

I loved how deeply this book got into exploring what faith means, both in the religious sense and in the way in what other people believe someone can be capable of. This book is one of the best books i have read so far from any book i ever read in how realistically and honest it discusses faith from all angles.
This is not a religious book, but it discusses religion, it shares both a person that is very faithful religious, that belie
Jan 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had never read Joyce Carol Oates before Carthage, but if this novel is representative of her work, then I am sold! She completely drew me into the middle of small town America and made me absolutely love it. The characters were captivating, deep, nuanced, and above all, incredibly realistic. The story narrative weaved back and forth creating enough suspense to keep the pages turning even when there was not much plot.

The novel starts with the mysterious disappearance of nineteen year old Cressi
Feb 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In her 40th novel, Oates once again depicts the tragic sundering of families. The damage is not gradual, but the result of misbegotten choices/perceptions.

The focus of "Carthage" is Cressida Mayfield, the 'smart' younger sister - who feels unloved, unwanted, in spite of the obvious care bestowed upon her - of the 'pretty' Juliet. Juliet is betrothed to Brett Kincaid, who returns from the Iraq war scarred in body and mind. The setting of Carthage, New York is real, but I found it interesting to l
This is the story of the Mayfield’s family: Zeno and his wife and two sisters, Juliet, who is engaged to Brett Kincaid, and Cressida, a misfit and possibly autistic girl.

After the tourists attack of 9/11, Juliet’s fiancee decides to enlist. However, he came home severely injured and baldly traumatized by Iraq war.

After the subtle Cressida’s disappearance in the wilds of Adirondacks, who was alleged raped and murdered by Bret Kincaid he confess the crime with his blurred memoirs of the war.

No bod
Ruth Merriam
Too.Many.Words. This book is about a girl who goes missing and the impact this has on other people. It is written in very free-form, flowing, multi adjectival and adverbial prose. There are a lot of similes and metaphors, and language devices as well as a great deal of redundancy like the author was having to repeat instructions to a room full of preschoolers over and over. The sentence structure veers toward run-ons as if the characters were having an inner monologue, or perhaps an important di ...more
This was almost a 4 for me. The beginning is a 4 and the middle is a 2 and the end is a 5. So 3 it is but very high three. Could not go to 4 because I almost put it down in the middle as I was bored and feel that the middle could have been sharper and more to the point. Missing daughter....same old story right? Not quite throw in a wounded war vet who was engaged to the missing girls sister and who is a suspect in her disappearance. Great ending!!!! But the middle gives up too much and drags. Th ...more
Oct 17, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2014
My review for this book was first published by The New York Journal of Books in 2014. I reproduce it here:

Pity the first-time reader of Joyce Carol Oates.

Consider his predicament, standing in front of the O section of the local library or bookshop, dozens upon dozens of her books staring back forlornly, 50 years’ worth, in all forms and genres, fighting for attention.

Where does one even start? Does he first reach for the psychological family dramas (We Were the Mulvaneys)? Or perhaps the big got
Matt Escott
Jan 24, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 21, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american
In many ways, Oates' latest isn't vastly different to many of her other novels (a seemingly ideal upstate New York family torn apart by a terrible event involving a daughter - 'We Were the Mulvaneys' and 'My Sister, My Love' have both trodden the same path) but then it is her fascination with certain themes that keeps me reading her and finding something new even when there is this sense of déja vu. So, here, in addition to Oates's usual themes about identity, about violence, about family, she a ...more
Apr 25, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was promised a cleverly written mystery but instead received 200 pages of emptiness. I could have skipped half of the book and still understand every plot point and character development. The story was slow-paced and repetitive, revisiting almost every event in the book through at least three characters. This variety of perspectives rarely revealed anything. I felt nothing for the tragedies of the characters no matter how hard the writing tried to evoke sorrow. I felt hollow and shallow after ...more
This is a tale of a girl who goes missing, a man who may or may not have killed her, and the toll the incident takes on the people involved. It's told in parts, and from different characters' perspectives. The first part I found so compelling, and it reminded me of the narrative structure of shows like The Killing. The second part was a complete let down (and certain aspects (view spoiler) ...more
May 20, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The action of a waif- like young girl with the odd name of Cressida, spirals outward to engulf other lives in a chaotic maelstrom. I almost lost patience with this book several times. It seemed to be overloaded with eccentric characters, becoming almost ludicrous. But I persisted and was rewarded. Many of the characters slowly assumed three dimensions on the page. This is a gripping story about the evils of war, mental illness, the joy and agony of intimate relationships. It is clearly a fable o ...more
Aug 10, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: unfinished, not-read
I haven't any idea why this book and I stalled out. The story seemed to drag and despite the conflicts faced by the characters and the tragedy unfolding, I just didn't care much.
I was going to file this and go back to it, but I don't think it's worth it. I'm racing back to the 19th century where I belong.
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Favorite book by Joyce Carol Oates? 3 28 Feb 26, 2019 05:18PM  
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Carthage 4 30 Apr 22, 2014 10:11AM  

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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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