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Middle Age: A Romance Paperback – October 1, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A romance? The hero dies in the opening pages, adolescents renounce their parents and the grownups aren't true to themselves, much less each other, because they have no idea what they are. In the Lexus-crowded town of Salthill-on-Hudson, husbands and wives share beds in which the linens meet more crisply than the bodies. "How eternal is a single night, and of what eternities are our long marriages composed!" And yet romance is deep in the bones of this soaring epic of renewal and redemption, an Easter of the flesh, a Viagra of the soul. Sculptor Adam Berendt goes into cardiac arrest while saving a child from drowning, and so redeems the 50-somethings of Salthill with his death; he confers the idea and the actuality of grace on their lives. It may be said of Oates's oeuvre that it is a long marriage between author and reader, composed of many eternities. Her sentences seem to contain more sentiment per word than anyone else's. She punishes us with terrible truths: Death lurks at every window and Eros is a demon, worshiped at awful cost. In marriages charged with such import, one must cheat in order to breathe, as Augusta Cutler discovers after Adam's death, when she leaves her husband, Owen, to ferret out the truth about Adam, and herself, and to find respite. Reminiscent of her powerful Black Water, but equipped with a happy ending, Oates's latest once more confirms her mastery of the form. (Sept. 10)Forecast: Of late, Oates can do no wrong. Deep in her career, she is pulling out the stops again. Since the success of Blonde, and Oprah's February 2001 selection of We Were the Mulvaneys, more readers than ever will be gravitating to her new work (and her backlist, too), and they should be thoroughly satisfied with her latest offering.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Oates on febrile relationships.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (October 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060934905
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060934903
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #810,287 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Joyce Carol Oates is the author of more than 70 books, including novels, short story collections, poetry volumes, plays, essays, and criticism, including the national bestsellers We Were the Mulvaneys and Blonde. Among her many honors are the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction and the National Book Award. Oates 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.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 39 people found the following review helpful By MICHAEL ACUNA on October 8, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Almost immediately, at the very beginning of Joyce Carol Oates, "Middle Age, A Romance," you come upon her dedication which reads: "To my Princeton friends, who are nowhere in these pages." Oates is, of course a professor of Humanities at Princeton University.More importantly, this dedication serves as Oates notice to her readers that the characters in "Middle Age" are a breed, a type, of a world... apart from herself and her friends. She is setting up a barrier between herself and her characters. As a general rule, in most cases this would not be a good sign for the reading to come. But because Oates has proven to be masterfull at best and interesting at least we take the dedication with a grain of salt and read on. "Middle Age" is Oates ode to middle age among a tightly-knit group of mostly wealthy residents of Salthill-on-Hudson in upstate New York. The catalyst for the various stories is one Adam Berendt whose death prompts a flood of tears and concern among the women and men of Salthill that propells the novel through it's various chapters. Add to this the fact that Berendt appears to be without family, has always been mysterious about his background and the source of his income, that the men seem as attracted to him as do the women and that he has not had sex with any of his many admirers, and you have the beginnings of a fascinating novel. Oates, though seemingly detached from her flood of characters is nonetheless very sympathetic towards them and as a result we are also. The style of "Middle Age" is a departure for Oates: very much unlike the furtive, paranoid, sexually explicit "Man Crazy" or the technicolor, movie-like "We Were the Mulvaneys.Read more ›
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By John Standiford VINE VOICE on April 15, 2002
Format: Hardcover
First off, I find it hilarious when people criticize Joyce Carol Oates' work for being overly long... The business of every day living is often interrupted mercilessly by tangents out of our control. Oates' writing often takes on that characteristic as it delves into the thoughts and feelings of its main characters. Yes, it often takes away from the urgency of the plot, but the people in Oates' books are important and you get to know them at their pace.
This brings me to her newest novel, Middle Age. What's fascinating about this book is that the main character, Adam Berendt is killed off in the first few pages of the book. The aftermath of his fatal accident sets off a chain of events among his social circle which is comprised of the upper crust of an upscale enclave in New York State. During this examination of relationships, the plot often takes a number of Oates' normal tangents. At times, it's uncomfortable but it exposes you to the same state of mind shared by the characters.
The reactions and subsequent foibles of these charaters is memorable and worth every minute you spend with this book. Sure, some of these characters are vapid and have very little to offer the world but there's value in reading what happens to them. Others become so twisted based on the death of Adam Berendt that they come close to throwing away their lives. The book is billed as darkly comical but I rarely laughed because I saw so many glimpses of real life in these people. Some of it was inspirational, a little bit of it was funny, and some of it was disturbing. In short, it's a lot like many of her other books.
The only downside of the book was after I finished and asked myself what she was trying to say in writing this book.
Read more ›
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By jeanne-scott on October 26, 2006
Format: Paperback
When a man dies while attempting to save the life of a drowning child, the story has just begun. His death opens a tale of people searching for their purpose in life, for their true spot in the world.

The man who has died, Adam, entered their lives and seemingly took their world by storm. Although they all believed him to be their friend, it seems that Adam did not have a close personal relationship with any of them, except in their own versions of their lives. What he did do was to get them to seek out the truth of their lives in varied ways, from conversations, by his example, at times almost by pitting them against themselves and each other.

As each person mourns his passing, they begin to change their lives and goals and to strive for more than they have in the past. More love, more effort, more independence, more happiness, more freedom........

While there is much introspection, there is also a self-centered aspect to many of their lives in the manner in which they interpret life around them.

I found the action of one college age daughter to be beyond infuriating and could not believe that the father suffered her abuse in the manner that he did.

Those that love to read this author will find this a book to be a treasure. That I am not a fan, is probably obvious. I find her work complex, which I enjoy, but emotionally draining at times, when there appears to be little redemption for anyone and the characters appear too hard edged to ring true. I think she is a gifted writer, but not someone I seek out. I read this for a book group and the book group was divided over this novel.
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