Rameau’s ramblings: This was the first Joyce Carol Oates novel I ever read.
First posted on Goodreads November 6th 2011.
Marissa is a beautiful, sweet, but slow 11-year-old. Judah, an older girl from the same school, has led Marissa to a secluded basement. Remaining an unaware hostage for days, Marissa grows weak as Judah prepares to sacrifice her to the Indian legend, the Corn Maiden.
First of all, if you don’t like nightmares and don’t want to be scared and repulsed by the horrors ordinary people do, don’t read this. Since I’m one of the slightly skewed people who enjoy reading about the darker side of the human nature, I actually enjoyed the book and most of the short stories within.
I got lost in the pain and desperation Marissa’s mother felt when she found her daughter missing and her world unravelling under the scrutiny of the authorities and the public. I felt the confusion as the innocent teacher agreed to help the police only to find himself in the centre of a witch-hunt. And I even found a sliver of understanding and the pity for the kidnapper.
All this happened within the first short story and more was to come with the others thanks to Oates’ writing. She managed to keep me turning the pages even when I was annoyed with her choices both for the characters and the effective writing. Somehow Oates managed to make third limited past tense seem more immediate and gripping than most authors manage with first person present tense.
The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares is an acquired taste, and since this is my first encounter with Joyce Carol Oates’ work, I can only assume the same goes for the rest of her work. It’s going to take a while for me to explore this theory further though.
I received an Advanced Readers Copy from the publisher through NetGalley.