The Gravedigger's Daughter

The Gravedigger's Daughter

by Joyce Carol Oates

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Overview

Fleeing Nazi Germany in 1936, the Schwarts immigrate to a small town in upstate New York. Here the father—a former high school teacher—is demeaned by the only job he can get: gravedigger and cemetery caretaker. When local prejudice and the family's own emotional frailty give rise to an unthinkable tragedy, the gravedigger's daughter, Rebecca heads out into America. Embarking upon an extraordinary odyssey of erotic risk and ingenious self-invention, she seeks renewal, redemption, and peace—on the road to a bittersweet and distinctly “American” triumph.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061236839
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 04/01/2008
Series: P.S. Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 624
Sales rank: 470,246
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Medal of Humanities, the National Book Critics Circle Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, the National Book Award, and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction, and has been several times nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. She has written some of the most enduring fiction of our time, including the national bestsellers We Were the Mulvaneys, Blonde, which was nominated for the National Book Award, and the New York Times bestseller The Falls, which won the 2005 Prix Femina. Her most recent novel is A Book of American Martyrs. She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University and has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978.

Hometown:

Princeton, New Jersey

Date of Birth:

June 16, 1938

Place of Birth:

Lockport, New York

Education:

B.A., Syracuse University, 1960; M.A., University of Wisconsin, 1961

Read an Excerpt

The Gravedigger's Daughter

Chapter One

Chautauqua Falls, New York

One afternoon in September 1959 a young woman factory worker was walking home on the towpath of the Erie Barge Canal, east of the small city of Chautauqua Falls, when she began to notice that she was being followed, at a distance of about thirty feet, by a man in a panama hat.

A panama hat! And strange light-colored clothes, of a kind not commonly seen in Chautauqua Falls.

The young woman's name was Rebecca Tignor. She was married, her husband's name Tignor was one of which she was terribly vain.

"Tignor."

So in love, and so childish in her vanity, though not a girl any longer, a married woman a mother. Still she uttered "Tignor" a dozen times a day.

Thinking now as she began to walk faster He better not be following me, Tignor won't like it.

To discourage the man in the panama hat from wishing to catch up with her and talk to her as men sometimes, not often but sometimes, did, Rebecca dug the heels of her work shoes into the towpath, gracelessly. She was nerved-up anyway, irritable as a horse tormented by flies.

She'd almost smashed her hand in a press, that day. God damn she'd been distracted!

And now this. This guy! Sent him a mean look over her shoulder, not to be encouraged.

No one she knew?

Didn't look like he belonged here.

In Chautauqua Falls, men followed her sometimes. At least, with their eyes. Most times Rebecca tried not to notice. She'd lived with brothers, she knew "men." She wasn't the shy fearful little-girl type. She was strong, fleshy. Wanting tothink she could take care of herself.

But this afternoon felt different, somehow. One of those wan warm sepia-tinted days. A day to make you feel like crying, Christ knew why.

Not that Rebecca Tignor cried. Never.

And: the towpath was deserted. If she shouted for help . . .

This stretch of towpath she knew like the back of her hand. A forty-minute walk home, little under two miles. Five days a week Rebecca hiked the towpath to Chautauqua Falls, and five days a week she hiked back home. Quick as she could manage in her damn clumsy work shoes.

Sometimes a barge passed her on the canal. Livening things up a little. Exchanging greetings, wisecracks with guys on the barges. Got to know a few of them.

But the canal was empty now, both directions.

God damn she was nervous! Nape of her neck sweating. And inside her clothes, armpits leaking. And her heart beating in that way that hurt like something sharp was caught between her ribs.

"Tignor. Where the hell are you."

She didn't blame him, really. Oh but hell she blamed him.

Tignor had brought her here to live. In late summer 1956. First thing Rebecca read in the Chautauqua Falls newspaper was so nasty she could not believe it: a local man who'd murdered his wife, beat her and threw her into the canal somewhere along this very-same deserted stretch, and threw rocks at her until she drowned. Rocks! It had taken maybe ten minutes, the man told police. He had not boasted but he had not been ashamed, either.

Bitch was tryin to leave me, he said.

Wantin to take my son.

Such a nasty story, Rebecca wished she'd never read it. The worst thing was, every guy who read it, including Niles Tignor, shook his head, made a sniggering noise with his mouth.

Rebecca asked Tignor what the hell that meant: laughing?

"You make your bed, now lay in it."

That's what Tignor said.

Rebecca had a theory, every female in the Chautauqua Valley knew that story, or one like it. What to do if a man throws you into the canal. (Could be the river, too. Same difference.) So when she'd started working in town, hiking the towpath, Rebecca dreamt up a way of saving herself if/when the time came.

Her thoughts were so bright and vivid she'd soon come to imagine it had already happened to her, or almost. Somebody (no face, no name, a guy bigger than she was) shoved her into the muddy-looking water, and she had to struggle to save her life. Right away pry off your left shoe with the toe of your right shoe then the other quick! And then— She'd have only a few seconds, the heavy work shoes would sink her like anvils. Once the shoes were off she'd have a chance at least, tearing at her jacket, getting it off before it was soaked through. Damn work pants would be hard to get off, with a fly front, and buttons, and the legs kind of tight at the thighs, Oh shit she'd have to be swimming, too, in the direction the opposite of her murderer . . .

Christ! Rebecca was beginning to scare herself. This guy behind her, guy in a panama hat, probably it was just coincidence. He wasn't following her only just behind her.

Not deliberate only just accident.

Yet: the bastard had to know she was conscious of him, he was scaring her. A man following a woman, a lonely place like this.

God damn she hated to be followed! Hated any man following her with his eyes, even.

Ma had put the fear of the Lord in her, years ago. You would not want anything to happen to you, Rebecca! A girl by herself, men will follow. Even boys you know, you can't trust.

Even Rebecca's big brother Herschel, Ma had worried he might do something to her. Poor Ma!

Nothing had happened to Rebecca, for all Ma's worrying.

At least, nothing she could remember.

Ma had been wrong about so many damn things . . .

Rebecca smiled to think of that old life of hers when she'd been a girl in Milburn. Not yet a married woman.

The Gravedigger's Daughter. Copyright © by Joyce Oates. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Interviews

The following is Edmund White interviewing Joyce Carol Oates about her new book, The Gravedigger's Daughter.

Q: The Gravedigger's Daughter has some connections to your own life, I've been told, or at least to your grandmother's. Could you tell me what those links are?

A: The novel is an imagined journey through the life of my "Jewish" grandmother who had hidden her Jewishness, like most of her family background, from everyone including her husband and son. Because my grandmother Blanche Morgenstern--the name was changed to "Morningstar"--seemed to have no history, she came to seem to others admirably selfless; only decades later did I come to realize that she must have been terribly lonely, bereft of a family background and any ancestral history if even a despairing one. My grandmother was the person who bought me my first typewriter when I was fourteen, and always gave me books as presents; she has come to seem to me, across the decades, as across an abyss whose depths are obscured by picturesque mists, an utterly mysterious woman: the "muse" of much of my writing which has always been for me an exploration of mystery, though not invariably an explanation of it.

Q: This novel seems to me to be about the Holocaust though it takes place entirely in America and mostly in the period after the Second World War. Would you ever consider writing a direct, head-on account of the Holocaust-or do you feel more at home with this indirect approach?

A: No, I would never wish to attempt writing about the Holocaust since there is no point of entry for me. Such an obsessive quest would belong to the descendants of Holocaust sufferers orsurvivors who would likely be haunted by their relatives' memories.

Q: Tignor is a vibrant male who gradually falls apart and becomes dangerously jealous and violent. Another character, glimpsed fleetingly, is a serial killer. What I find remarkable is how well-rounded your representations of these characters are. Do you find it difficult to humanize these monsters?

A: I don't consider these men "monsters" really; they are not so very different from us, but the trajectories of their life-stories take them in ways radically different from our own. Writers are fantasists, not unlike serial killers who are utterly enthralled by the contents of the unconscious which they cannot expel or comprehend but which seems to guide them in their acts. Only when obeying the dictates of the unconscious is the serial killer "really alive"--so too for many artists, only when immersed in art are they "really alive."

Q: Just when it seems you have exploited all the possibilities of your tale you shift into a new, unexpected epistolary mode at the end of the book which provides a shocking and deeply moving coda. You have always struck me as a writer fully in command of her craft but if anything to me it seems that in Blonde and the novels that have followed you have reached new technical heights. Not that you are showing off your skills for their own sake; rather, you seem now to be able to go anywhere at anytime with a resourcefulness that is always surprising.

A: I had always intended the cousins Rebecca and Freida to meet after many years. In fact, it isn't clear if they will meet. The letters at the end of the novel --though written by me--yet have the power to bring tears to my eyes, after repeated readings. Isn't this strange! I think it must be because I feel that I am a kind of Freida, though more benign than this Freida, writing to my grandmother who has been dead for decades....

Q: Do you see any direct relationship between your teaching of fiction at Princeton and your own finesse as a writer? Between your work as a critic and as a novelist?

A: I don't think that there is much connection between my teaching and my writing. The one is so very social and outgoing, the other very solitary and often exhausting.

Q: Though your main female character changes her name several times in the course of the novel, this variability only serves to underline her rock-solid toughness, her amazing ability to endure. Are you an optimist about human nature -or are her survival skills merely idiosyncratic?

A: I don't think that I am particularly optimistic or pessimistic: so much of life is sheer contingency, sheer luck good or bad, one's perspective is inevitably an expression of one's luck good or bad. The optimist is someone to whom the bad things have not yet happened.... (This sounds like an Oscar Wilde aphorism though Oscar would have been more perversely witty in expressing it.)

Q: What are your favorite parts of the book?

A: My favorite parts of THE GRAVEDIGGER's DAUGHTER are the scenes in the gravedigger's miserable little house and in the graveyard, the exchanges between the father, the brothers, and Rebecca. The strange haunting rawness of a certain kind of utterly uncivilizable being like Rebecca's older brother and the furious befuddlement of the father who'd once been a math teacher and must now dig graves in a Christian cemetery; next, the scenes with Tignor. I think that this is a powerful "nostalgia for the depths" (is that the expression?) that evokes distant memories from my childhood, not to be replicated in any way in my present life, and not desirable in any case. I grew up amid men not unlike these, and while the warm and loving women of my childhood are not at all absent from my present life, these men are utterly absent and seem to belong almost to a pre-history.

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The Gravedigger's Daughter 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 54 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've read most of Oates' books, but this beats all predecessors. Simply put, this book is in a class all its own. While intricately written, the book has a very basic theme, I think. Not strictly about being abused by males, whether by a father, husband, son, whatever....it is about choices on the one hand and fate on the other. I saw the abuse, but I think the story line focused more on the hand we are dealt in life and what we make of it. Rebecca/Hazel chose to run from it. In my opinion, a wise choice. In the end, sad though it was, she ended up returning back to her roots. We don't choose what race or generation we are born into no more than we choose the color of our eyes or the texture of our hair. I believe the underlying theme is the lack of tolerance in this world and the utter sadness and fear that are the ultimate result.
DesC More than 1 year ago
This was the first Oates novel I read and it was pretty good. It was longer than it should have been (and would have been better if it was condensed) but it was a good story. I will definitely read more of her books in the future.
Kat_2010 More than 1 year ago
I read this book while I was on vacation, and I could not put it down. The plot is original and I always wanted to know what was going to happen next. There is romance and scandal; some parts are thrilling while other parts are sad. I would definitely recommend reading the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An amazing book that only Oates could write. She writes with deep knowledge of her characters. They are so developed you get to know them. A great story that encompasses many years from the hovel in which the Grave Digger's Daughter was "raised" to the triumpth of her later years. Her secrets are never revealed but they totally shape her and her son.
DesiDivine More than 1 year ago
This is a LONG book. It took me about 3 weeks to finish it, but I think it was worth it. Hazel Jones (AKA Rebecca Schwart) is a very intriguing. Her life is a series of ups and downs. This novel takes you into the world of a girl from an immigrant family. She is born in New York harbor and grows up under unusual circumstances. I don't want to say to much so that I don't ruin the story for you. But, read this novel! You wont regret it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
such a good story...I had trouble putting it down. I hadn't read anything from Oates in awhile and am so happy to re-discover her....
Guest More than 1 year ago
I absolutely could not put this book down! Despite the length, it kept my attention.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
first one of Joyce Carol Oates books I read, definitely makes me want to read more
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1959 in Chautauqua Falls, New York, a stranger tries to abduct Rebecca Tignor nee Schwart. Stunned especially since her kidnapper insists she is a Hazel Jones, Rebecca reflects on the violence of her life. Her parents and two older brothers barely escaped the Nazi final solution. When she was thirteen, her father killed her mother and almost murdered Rebecca, before finally killing himself in a murder suicide. She married a violent man, traveling beer salesman Niles Tignor.----------------- When she got away from her captor she comes home only to be beaten by her husband. Rebecca knows she must leave before Niles kills her and their nine year old child Niley. She becomes Hazel Jones and Niley becomes Zacharias. Hazel and Zach move all over New York until she meets kindhearted wealthy Chet Gallagher, but although she loves him she still hides her roots even from him.-------------- This is an entertaining look at the life of a woman who always has chose flight over fight. She was raised in fear, married in fear, and became a nomad out of fear, and now with Zach has a chance to live outside of fear if she takes the risk with Chet that he is as kind as she thinks. The ¿Beyond¿ ending seems odd and the basic theme is one that Joyce Oates has used often, but fans of the author will not mind a bit as no one better gets inside the psyche of a person who believes that relationships especially with males means being used, abused and you lose.------------- Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I didn't think I would like this book when I started reading it but soon got completely wrapped up in Rebecca's story!
2manykids More than 1 year ago
No ending, I am not an author, therefore, it is very annoying when a book does not end with an ending. This book was a waste of time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I couldn't wait to start this book after what I'd heard about it, but I ended up being disappointed. I thought it was way too long and boring. It sort of felt like......so what? I must have missed something!
elsyd on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The first 188 pages of this book were almost impossible to endure. I reverted to speed-reading, something I really don't approve of. The 2nd 2/3 of the book was good although the ending was somewhat dissapointing. I will not be reading any more of Oates in the near future.
dannalora on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I listened to this book on disc and it took me FOREVER (I was so disinterested, I listened to something else during it, putting this one aside). I should have just stopped after a few discs, however, I like to finish the books I start in case they get better. Every single character in the book you meet is crazy! Not one single sane person. I know there's crazy peoplen out there, but everyone? Oates repeats herself so much the book could have been cut in half. This is the first Oates book I've read, and unless someone I know and trust recommends one, I won't try another!
jasonpettus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.)So what's the dark fear that lies in the inner heart of all erudite nerds? Namely this -- that no matter how educated, intelligent or well-read you are, there are always going to be a certain amount of very well-known authors you have never read at all, not even one single page of, and that at any moment this fact might be discovered by your fellow erudite nerds. Just take me, for example, who can count among completely unread authors such stalwarts as (deep breath, Jason, deep breath) Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, William Faulkner, Norman Mailer, Augusten Burroughs, Dave Eggers, and dozens more embarrassing admissions. So needless to say that I was excited to recently come across the latest novel by Joyce Carol Oates at my local library, 2007's The Gravedigger's Daughter, because Oates is yet another of these classic "everyone has read at least one book by her" authors who I haven't read myself; and that's apparently a shame, according to my fellow book-loving geeks, given that Oates (a lit professor at Princeton) has been a multiple nominee over the years of the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, National Book Critics Circle Award, PEN/Faulkner Award and Orange Prize, not to mention the actual winner of an NBA (in 1970), a Stoker Award and a dozen other accolades. And this is to say nothing of The Gravedigger's Daughter in particular, which made the New York Times' "10 Most Notable Books of the Year" list last year; and of course all of this is small potatoes compared to the greatest achievement of Oates' entire career so far, making it into the Revered And Blessed Oprah's Book Club Hallowed Be Her Name Amen.So I checked it out and sat down a couple of weeks ago to read it; and then about a week later, found myself finally giving up on it for good around page 250 or so (or roughly halfway through), after two days of literally dreading the idea of even physically picking the book up again. So what happened? Well, to answer that, maybe it would be better for me to ask you a series of questions, questions I've been starting to wonder more and more about the longer CCLaP has been open. Ready?--Why is it that almost all novels revered by the academic community principally feature characters who are constantly in a state of being slightly miserable? And not miserable as in "interesting" miserable, but miserable as in "that whiny professor in the corner of the room who ruins every godd-mn party they're invited to" miserable?--Why is it that almost all award-winning novels go way out of their way, deliberately out of their way, to show off what pretty language that author knows, completely removing the reader from the natural pace and rhythm of the story itself? Why can no academically revered novel simply let the reader get lost in the actual story, which is the entire point of a novel even existing?*--Why is it that academes are so fascinated by mediocre EveryPeople living in bland surroundings, who do nothing with their unremarkable lives and yet somehow still manage to make a whole series of terrible life decisions? Why do so many people in the academic community think that this makes for fascinating literature, and why do they think we should sympathize or even care about such oblivious, socially retarded chumps?It's the great mystery of the arts, I'm beginning to understand, as CCLaP has me reading academically-revered award-winning novels on a regular basis for the first time in my life; that the exact novels most lauded by this community are the very ones least fitting the definition of an entertaining novel, the ones that instead most call attention to themselves as "precious works of art" more fit for years of overeducated analysis instead of simple pleasure. And in this I guess the so-called "mainstream lite
bibliophileofalls on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was way too long but did have some redeeming values. I found the characters portrayals muddied. I never got to a point where I felt I "knew" any of them, even the main character, Rebecca/Hazel. Their personalities never really jelled. The son, Jake, almost seemed to have some mental/emotional issues growing up, but then mysteriously turns out fairly normal. Hazel, portrayed as a very protective almost smothering mother to Jake, at one point leaves him alone and sets out on a long, dangerous hike with her man friend. Confusing character portrayals. I did, on the other hand, like the ending; I felt it was fitting. Don't think I'll be looking for any J.C.O. books for quite a while.
Natalie220 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was skeptical about this novel but I'm glad I stuck with it. We hear Rebecca Swharts life story which is based on Oates own grandmother. She has to hide the fact she is Jewish and even changes her name she has no relatives but only a son who becomes a great pianist. Great story don't want to say too much.
neverlistless on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this one at the beginning and through the middle, but towards the end I really started losing interest. It took me almost a week and a half to read the last 150 pages! It's hard for me to say anything else about the book. I liked reading about the evolution of Rebecca, the main character. Her life was definitely interesting! My favorite parts of the book, though, were at the beginning. She is the daughter of immigrants and her father is the town gravedigger. I liked reading about the tiny stone cottage on the edge of the graveyard.
bhowell on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a brilliant book by one of my most favorite authors. Every new book by Ms Oates is a treasure but still Gravediggers is an extraordinary effort. The only reason that I still have a few unread books by Ms Oates is that they are to be savoured and set aside for special occasions.
cemming on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I quite dislike this book. I even flailed through the stupid thing twice, the second time thinking it sounded so familiar. At the same time, the story is so dull that it apparently flew from my mind until I reached a midway point where a shooting occurs that I remembered quite clearly."The Gravedigger's Daughter" is very character-driven, and Rebecca is a dull, slow-minded person to follow. Though many riveting events have happened to her, she works slowly through each story in a painstaking way that's hard for an impatient girl like myself to stand. I'm generally forgiving with Oates, but not here. Save your time and read "Mulvaneys" instead.
mrstreme on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Gravedigger¿s Daughter was an intense story of one woman, Rebecca, whose destiny might have been to fail, but through her tenacity and courage, she became a strong, independent and resourceful woman.Rebecca¿s family emigrated to the U.S. after the Nazi take-over in Germany. They settled in upstate New York, where Rebecca¿s father accepted a position as the town¿s gravedigger. They lived in a hovel, and Rebecca¿s childhood was a hard one. Her father was abusive; her mother, emotionally empty; and her older brothers teased or ignored her. She grew up in a household without love and was picked on for being the gravedigger¿s daughter.Eventually, tragedy struck the family and Rebecca had to make her way into the world. At 17, she met Niles Tignor, who swept Rebecca off her feet and married her. Niles was trouble, probably a hired killer, and Rebecca often felt Niles¿s anger through his fists and words. Once again, Rebecca was in a loveless situation ¿ this time with a son to consider ¿ and she must decide to leave or die.Without giving away any spoilers, I felt that Rebecca learned from her mother¿s mistakes ¿ she encouraged her son¿s musical talent, she protected him from the abuses of his father and remained there for him emotionally. For Rebecca, nothing was more important than her son¿s safety and well-being ¿ priorities at which Rebecca¿s mother failed miserably.Additionally, this story held the dark undertones of anti-Semitic behavior in post-World War II New York and the devastation of the Holocaust. Rebecca grew up not realizing she was Jewish but knew that she lost many of her relatives back home. Townspeople sprayed swastikas on her home or left them inscribed in the dirt of her driveway. She was often called ¿Gypsy¿ or ¿Jew¿ and denied both claims vehemently. It was an interesting aspect to this story.At 582 pages, The Gravedigger¿s Daughter was longer than I am usually comfortable with. I remember at the half-way point thinking, in my normal impatient way, that perhaps I would skim the last 250 pages. But Rebecca¿s story entranced me, and I had to read every word to make sure she and her son were okay.This is my second Joyce Carol Oates¿ fictional book, but it certainly won¿t be my last. She truly is one of America¿s greatest storytellers.
ladydzura on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I had a hard time getting past the first 75 pages or so of this book. Once I did, I was glad that I had trudged through the less enjoyable bits. The rest of the book is captivating, and I became enthralled with Rebecca and her story. The ending isn't one that I expected at all, but I enjoyed it thoroughly.
C.Vick on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm not going to be so forward as to "review" a book I didn't actually finish, but I think it is worth mentioning that I could not finish this book.It had all the hallmarks of something I ought to have liked, and indeed, I could not put it down during those first few tense chapters where we alternate between Rebecca's present and her past, but once her safety was assured (for the moment, I'm sure) the book just dragged.She just kept talking and talking and talking without the story going much of anywhere. I skimmed a great deal and then finally had to accept that this was one of the few books I would simply never finish.So, maybe I am more forward than I thought, sorry! I'd love to be convinced to finish this one, but the payoff would have to be huge.
CarolynSchroeder on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is overall a very interesting, rarely done story of German Jewish immigrants (to upstate NY) who, at the tail end of the war and in the subsequent years, still fear for their lives and interpretations of who they are. Many parts of Rebecca's life end or begin unexpectedly and I believe, very "real." It truly made me think how life was not suddenly rosy upon immigration and escape from the Nazis. I felt the novel could have used a bit more editing as Rebecca's time with Tignor dragged on and on and on and seemed patently unplausible in many areas. I also never saw anything remotely appealing about Tignor, so while I realize Rebecca needed him to escape and carry on, I had a hard time swallowing her love for him. He was always so cruel and stopped at nothing to insult and demean her and their child. After she leaves him, the story unfolds with unexpected delights and realities. The last chapter, with the letters between Rebecca and Fryda are some of the most beautiful, haunting, real pieces of fiction I have read this year. Overall, highly recommended. It is, however, a story that sticks with you for a while after completion.
aliciamalia on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've always considered Oates an "Oprah" writer, melodramatic and girly, slightly lowbrow, without ever reading any of her works. I totally take it back - The Gravedigger's Daughter is strange, dense, filled with fascinating characters, and beautifully written. Considering how prolific she is (a book a year on average), I have nothing but awe for the talent of this writer. I'll definitely read more of her books.