The Barrens by Joyce Carol; Smith, Rosamond Oates

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Synopsis

In this gripping psychological thriller, Joyce Carol Oates, New York Times best-selling author and one of the most versatile and original voices in contemporary American fiction, delivers a startling, complex tale of a serial killer and the people that his ghastly crimes touch—and transform. People like Matt McBride. Matt was barely out of junior high when the mutilated body of the first victim—a popular, pretty teenager—was uncovered in the desolate New Jersey Pine Barrens. Although he had hardly known the girl, Matt has long felt guilty at not having been able somehow to prevent the atrocity. Now another attractive young woman has disappeared, and Matt knew this victim, too. Just possibly he knew her more intimately than he is prepared to admit. By degrees Matt becomes obsessed with a guilt he can neither comprehend nor assuage. His seemingly happy marriage begins to deteriorate, while his increasingly erratic behavior heightens police suspicions. It also draws official attention away from an artist—a man of limited talent but of fierce, demented vision—who signs his work Name Unknown. Under the spell of the missing woman, Matt follows a path that leads him out of the maze of tortured memory to a confrontation with not only the baleful Name Unknown but also his own long-unacknowledged self. The outcome is shattering. With "murder as an art and the serial killer as an artist," National Book Award–winner Joyce Carol Oates shows "how a murderer's savage creations ... transform a man's life."—Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times "Oates fans may judge [The Barrens] the best Smith novel yet."—Boston Herald

 

About Joyce Carol; Smith, Rosamond Oates

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Joyce Carol Oates was born in 1938 in Upstate, New York. She attended Syracuse University and graduated as Valedictorian. She then attended University of Wisconsin where she earned an M. A. By the time she was 47 years old, she had published at least that many separate books, including 16 full-length novels and more than a dozen collections of short stories. Some of her works were done under the pseudonym Rosamund Smith. She has also written numerous poems collected in several volumes, at least three plays, many critical essays, and articles and reviews on various subjects while fulfilling her obligations as a professor of English at the University of Windsor, where with her husband Raymond Smith she edited the Ontario Review, which the couple has continued since moving to Princeton in 1978. She has earned a reputation as indubitably one of our most prolific writers and very likely one of our best. Her fiction alone demonstrates considerable variety, ranging from direct naturalism to complex experiments in form. However, what chiefly makes her work her own is a quality of psychological realism, an uncanny ability to bring to the surface an underlying sense of foreboding or a threat of violence that seems to lurk just around the corner from the everyday domestic lives she depicts so realistically. Her first six novels, including Them (1969), which won the National Book Award, express these qualities in varying ways. she is also the recipient of an NEA grant, a Guggenheim fellowship, the PEN/Malamud Lifetime Achievement Award, and the F. Scott Fitzgerald Award for Lifetime Achievement in American Literature. She resides in New Jersey.
 
Published January 1, 2002 by ORION. 304 pages
Genres: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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Terrified that he’s losing control of the good life he’s taken for granted and haunted by Smith’s incantatory prose (“People always know more than they think they know” is perhaps the most resonant of several mantras here), Matt launches his own search for Duana’s killer and plunges into a thicke...

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Publishers Weekly

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Now, 20 years later, McBride becomes a suspect in the disappearance of local artist Duana Zwoll, a woman whom McBride knew and admired.

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