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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The horror of child abduction
Joyce Carol Oates writes about horrors that none of us want to imagine, and does it with such seductive prose we can't stop reading. Yet Oates' great talent is to find the horrific in both the commonplace and in the unthinkable. Daddy Love begins with a momentarily misplaced car that leads to a child's barely contained panic and a mother's sense of failure, a small horror...
Published 21 months ago by TChris

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars After all that and then it's over....
This is a very, very, very disturbing book and not a particularly well-written one. I love Oates most of the time but in this story--which is all too believable--I felt she lingered a bit much on the brutality and the sordid details and then left us hanging at the end. In one sense, yes, we know that a child who went through what Robbie went through is not destined for a...
Published 14 months ago by Kathleen Valentine


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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The horror of child abduction, December 23, 2012
By 
This review is from: Daddy Love (Hardcover)
Joyce Carol Oates writes about horrors that none of us want to imagine, and does it with such seductive prose we can't stop reading. Yet Oates' great talent is to find the horrific in both the commonplace and in the unthinkable. Daddy Love begins with a momentarily misplaced car that leads to a child's barely contained panic and a mother's sense of failure, a small horror that evolves into the larger horror of child abduction.

Part one takes place in 2007. Dinah Whitcomb has invested "all of her volcanic Mommy love" in her only child, Robbie. She strives to make every moment a learning experience for her five-year-old son. She faults herself when she feels tired, because a happy mother should always feel strong. Later she will blame herself for letting go of Robbie's hand when Robbie is snatched from her. Although she is faultless -- the abductor strikes her, first with a fist and then, when she runs after him, with a van -- Dinah feels "the defeat of her life as a mother."

The first four chapters tell the same brief story, each from a slightly different perspective, adding or subtracting facts, revealing more of Dinah's life, her sense of connection with her husband and son. In chapter five, time again begins to move forward. But can life really move forward for someone who has been as badly damaged, both physically and emotionally, as Dinah?

In the chapters that follow, Oates changes the perspective, allowing the reader to follow Robbie and his kidnapper. Oates reveals the demented mind of Daddy Love with the same skill that makes her portrayal of Dinah's tormented mind so convincing. It is nonetheless disappointing that Oates chose to make the character so purely evil, when a more nuanced approach -- a sex offender who struggles against urges he can't control, as is usually the case -- would have been less obvious.

Part two takes the reader to 2013. Robbie, now known as Gideon Cash, is in sixth grade. His true history, unknown to the teachers who believe he is Daddy Love's autistic son, is reflected only in his macabre drawings. Perspective changes again as the reader sees the world through Robbie's eyes. And as she does with Dinah, Oates enters Robbie's mind with uncommon insight. She presents a more subtle view of Robbie than is typical in fictional portrayals of abuse victims. Robbie's personality and behavior provide some of the novel's most thought-provoking moments.

Although Oates' prose is always first-rate, it doesn't soar to the same height in Daddy Love as it does in her best work. The story isn't particularly innovative. It is, in fact, too predictable to have the impact Oates probably intended. After the strong opening chapters, I felt let down by the pedestrian path that the plot follows.

The characters, as a reader expects from Oates, are fully developed and completely convincing. On the other hand, while Oates often paints portraits of victims, the characters in Daddy Love are not as memorable as those some of her other fiction: they evoke sympathy in ways that are just too easy, too predictable. To her credit, however, Oates avoids coating her characters in sugar. She understands that people rarely respond to tragedy in ways that make them noble and likable, as so many writers would have us believe. Dinah wouldn't be the ideal spokeswoman for mothers of abducted children; her connection with reality is tenuous, her fragility is unnerving. Dinah's husband realizes that he's lost perspective, that he's defined his entire life by a single catastrophic event, but he's powerless to change. Although these aren't Oates' best creations, it is for the characters rather than the plot that I recommend Daddy Love.

Be warned: Some scenes involving Daddy Love and Robbie are disturbing, and while none of them are described in graphic detail, sensitive readers should be cautioned that child abuse is very much a part of the book's content. There are also a couple of chapters that will make dog lovers cringe. Oates has never been a writer who shelters her readers from the darkest realities of life. She does not do so here.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chester Cash, Serial Sex Predator and Murderer, March 13, 2013
This review is from: Daddy Love (Hardcover)
Chet "Daddy Love" Cash lives in the hamlet of Kittatinny Falls, NJ. He presents himself to the locals as an artist, a bearded, youngish muscular mountain man who specializes in macramé. He travels around the country in the guise of an aging, vital preacher, gray bearded, in black with a distinctive crimson vest. He drives an old van that he repaints time and again. In the van, he carries a small box, fashioned by him in the shape of a coffin with a divided, hinged lid, like Dutch doors. In the box, when he needs a replacement, he stores a boy, snuggly fitted, gagged, a boy usually of six, a boy sealed in stark terror, though the real terror comes later under the stern training routine of his captor, Daddy Love.

Life and literature have given us some heinous criminals who make even the most avid anti-death penalty advocates reconsider their position. Many of them pale in the shadow of Oates's Daddy Love. I can say unreservedly that this novel will raise your blood pressure and keep you awake at night, especially if you are a parent or a grandparent. Child abduction and abuse arouse feelings of abhorrence and fear in us, without us actually feeling within ourselves what a wounded child feels. With her well known and respected, though not always liked, psychological legerdemain, Oates enables you to feel in the most visceral way the blinding terror that a stolen child feels, and the total desperation and self recrimination of suffering parents. Let that serve as both a recommendation and a warning.

For about the best true recounting of child abduction, you'll also want to read A Stolen Life: A Memoir by Jaycee Dugard, abducted by Phillip Garrido and held captive for 18 years. Dugard wrote the book as part of her recovery program; she wrote it, not, as often is the case, a hired scribe. Her story is sad and inspirational, something to hold onto when all seems hopeless.

As for DADDY LOVE, I've added it to my list of the very best crime fiction, in particular about a serial killer. It joins another of her books about a different sort of serial killer, Quentin P., in Zombie: A Novel, as well as others like The Collector (Back Bay Books), i, Killer, and Josie and Jack: A Novel, to cite a few.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Solitary men..standing at a little distance..observing.", January 14, 2013
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This review is from: Daddy Love (Kindle Edition)
The sexual predator, stunningly obvious to Chester Cash, seem invisible to parents. In fact these men do roam looking for young children. The story of six year old Robbie stolen brazenly and kept captive for six years, is not so strange to our world. We all know the stories.

Oates is able to touch the pulse of each of her characters. Her portrait of the psychopathic Cash is spot on. While not all predators go to such extremes, his mind is the grandiose, delusional prototype of the sexual sadist. Robbie as evolved into Gideon is a window onto the psyche of the abused hostage, split into pieces by the lack of human emotions from Daddy Love. Most of all, the anguish of his parents. They have come to live in the hell of losing a child.

Kind of hate the stars right now, because I could hardly say that I loved the book. But I do respect the book and feel that the emotions portrayed here are real and valid. I personally found them very immediate, and all too accessible. This is a tough story, but one I believe has a place to be told.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars After all that and then it's over...., July 23, 2013
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This review is from: Daddy Love (Audio CD)
This is a very, very, very disturbing book and not a particularly well-written one. I love Oates most of the time but in this story--which is all too believable--I felt she lingered a bit much on the brutality and the sordid details and then left us hanging at the end. In one sense, yes, we know that a child who went through what Robbie went through is not destined for a good outcome but I found the ending abrupt and a bit lacking. I am not sure I would recommend it to anyone without warning them to be prepared to be horrified and then disappointed.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Oates nails it, as usual, June 1, 2013
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This review is from: Daddy Love (Kindle Edition)
If you are an Oates fan, you will like this book. She goes into the dark side, as usual, with no holds barred. If you are unfamiliar with her work, this will shock you. It is not for people who like happy books.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Would love to know why, March 6, 2013
This review is from: Daddy Love (Hardcover)
I wonder why Joyce Carol Oates wrote this. I did finish it in one sitting; as I writer myself, I did admire her technique, and these horrible incidents DO happen: children getting kidnapped and abused, families broken due to the tragedy. And the sad loneliness of a loved little boy finding himself in cruel hands does break one's heart to imagine. Joyce Carol Oates does the job skillfully: leading us to the place where we can imagine all the above.
But for what?
I felt nothing when I finished, except revulsion (and I already know how to hate evil, I didn't need this book) and a sort of dirtiness, like I'd been looking at a car accident too long, instead of driving on in my own life.
Oates' tone is merciless.
At times I felt like SHE, the author, was the sadist, rubbing our noses in this awful situation that just gets worse and worse and worse.
I would rather read the account of a real kidnapping and study the mind and records of a real pedophile. Because then maybe we could learn something. And then do something. Evil doesn't just pop into the world, it comes from a long train of loss and hurt.
I know there are families who've suffered similar tragedies and dug deep into their hearts and somehow found strength and goodness--and altho they are still broken-hearted of course--they have come to another place. These people just stayed in the same place and seemed so very far away, so CRUELLY far away, from each other.
Why did she write this?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Daddy love?, May 10, 2013
By 
Debra A. Curry (Clairton, PA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Daddy Love (Kindle Edition)
Th book itself was what I expected.. The ending was terrible!! I thought the end made the book disappointing not a great read
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars She does it again, March 16, 2013
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F. A. S. (San Rafael, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Daddy Love (Kindle Edition)
Once again she manages to get inside the characters and write from that place. Uncanny storytelling. You understand things about people that very likely you would not otherwise. What makes them tick. How they got there. It begins to make sense. The amazing thing is how she does it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another tour de force, February 8, 2013
By 
Randall Neustaedter (Redwood City, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Daddy Love (Hardcover)
Joyce Carol Oates is a phenomenon. One of the most prolific literary authors of the modern era. This novel ranks with her most shocking and continues her reputation as a novelist who can portray the most evil characters of our culture with the ease and grace of a psychoanalyst. Her depiction is riveting and her writing is flawless. She is one of our most accessible modern authors, and she has won the hearts and minds of many readers. I have read nearly all her novels and, although some are uneven, this little gem ranks with her best character studies. I am just grateful that we have such a literary genius in our midst.
Of course if the material bothers you, avoid this book. It is disturbing and fascinating. Like many of her novels it allows the reader into the mindset of psychopaths and victims alike to experience the crime as it happens behind all of those media headlines.
You may be shocked and repulsed by the depravity, but you will not forget this author's uncanny abilities.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars i couldn't put it down.., February 7, 2013
By 
Michael K. Hart (temperanceville VA 23442) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Daddy Love (Hardcover)
..partly because I just wanted to get it over with and partly because I was enjoying her STYLE and artistry. I am a huge fan of JCO. This is, for me, amongst her best. I can't recommend it for everyone. I will go so far as to say I advise some to NOT read it. I read it in two sittings. It still haunts me. I will read it again.
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Daddy Love
Daddy Love by Joyce Carol Oates (Hardcover - January 8, 2013)
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