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Them by Joyce Carol Oates
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's review
May 15, 2012

it was ok

This overly long book was alternately boring, fascinating, repelling and maddening. Ms. Oates follows the lives of a family -- mother, daughter and son -- living in poverty in urban Detroit in the fifties and sixties. Based, according to her, on actual events, the book chronicles the traumatic lives they led, with what, to me at least, is an excess of imaginative reconstruction of nearly every thought these individuals must have had while the events were transpiring. Or maybe I should say MIGHT have had, because no matter how much Ms. Oates knew about them, she still would have had to make up about 95 % of what she wrote. I'm sure it's Ms. Oates's style, and no one can argue with her brilliance, but I found the avalanche of the characters' introspections to be overwhelming and offputting. When the reader is told too much, and when the thoughts are a hash, the narrative flow and credibility are lost. Who ARE these people really? We "know" everything about them, but what we "know" doesn't even make sense.
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