Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Falls by Joyce Carol Oates

The Falls by Joyce Carol Oates opens with Ariah's honeymoon to Niagara Falls and her husband's suicide while she sleeps off her wedding night hangover, an event that sets to tone for the remainder of the narrative. Ariah, doomed victim, and The Falls, murderous force, thread their way through the next 28 years in a novel pulled together from related vignettes or novellas (several acknowledged as previous published).

First is Ariah's second marriage, to Dirk Burnaby, a well-connected lawyer from a wealthy family, and the birth of their three children (Chandler, Royall, and Juliet).
Ariah confide in [Dirk], "Now we're safe, darling! Even if one is taken from us, we'd have two left. If you leave me" - she laughed her low throaty laugh, mocking her own dread - "I'd have the three of them."
Next comes Dirk failed Love Canal case and his murder. Time passes and the children grow up. Chandler, an assistant pilot of a tourist boat, is engaged to be married at nineteen, but after a mysterious Lady in Black seduces him in a graveyard, the married is put off. Chandler, a middle school science teacher, volunteers as a hostage negotiator. Juliet, an introverted high school girl, falls in love with a silent, sullen boy from a family of tough cops.

The talent of Joyce Carol Oates embroiders this patchwork of tales, stitched together from disparate parts, and finally revealed to be a coherent work of art. A beautifully written story of human struggle and hope.

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