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Mudwoman [Kindle Edition]

Joyce Carol Oates
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (100 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $14.99
Kindle Price: $9.78
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Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers

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Book Description

“Oates is just a fearless writer…with her brave heart and her impossibly lush and dead-on imaginative powers.”
Los Angeles Times
“[An] extraordinarily intense, racking, and resonant novel.”
Booklist (starred review)

One of the most acclaimed writers in the world today, the inimitable Joyce Carol Oates follows up her searing, New York Times bestselling memoir, A Widow’s Story, with an extraordinary new work of fiction. Mudwoman is a riveting psychological thriller, taut with dark suspense, that explores the high price of repression in the life of a respected university president teetering on the precipice of a nervous breakdown. Like Daphne DuMaurier’s gothic masterwork, Rebecca, and the classic ghost story, The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James, Oates’s Mudwoman is a chilling page-turner that hinges on the power of the imagination and the blurry lines between the real and the invented—and it stands tall among the author’s most powerful and beloved works, including The Falls, The Gravedigger’s Daughter, and We Were the Mulvaneys.

Editorial Reviews


'Shot through with menace and subtlety...Mudwoman is a genuinely unsettling book in which Oates pays her reader the compliment of never letting them settle or even being entirely sure about what they have just read. For a young novelist, this kind of risk-taking would be admirable; for a 73-year-old with more than 50 novels to her name, it is extraordinary' Financial Times 'A chilling, beautifully written ghost story about the power of the past' The Times 'Oates is a dangerous writer in the best sense of the word, one who takes risks almost obsessively with energy and relish... As if her aim were not to satisfy or entertain - though she always does both - but to do the vandalistic prose equivalent of spray-painting or setting fire to bins in public parks.' New York Times 'We think of Oates, like Poe, as a master of terror, but her real mastery is in almost never depicting a strong emotion in isolation... Oates [is]... a fearless experimenter forcing the reader ahead of her at knifepoint' Los Angeles Times 'This is an intriguing and bold novel about the flip side of success, and the sexual and psychological violence on the female psyche' Emma Hagestadt, Independent


“[A] powerful novel…[Oates] deftly interweaves M.R.’s present, memories of her troubled childhood, and her feverish hallucinations…This hypnotic novel suggests that forgetting the past may be the heavy cost that success demands.” (The New Yorker )

“Uniquely personal… an intriguing departure from token Oates tales.” (Huffington Post )

“Madness and malevolence squirm on almost every page in Joyce Carol Oates’ 38th novel… Oates’ dark brilliance is ever evident in her main characters, complex souls with mysterious corners in their psyches…” (Minneapolis Star Tribune )

“This chilling novel opens with a child left to die in a silty riverbed, a memory that no amount of later life success can erase.” (O, the Oprah Magazine )

“…The Oates style, with its fractious barrage of dashes, suggests what [Emily] Dickenson might have produced if she had written doorstop novels instead of short poems…[Oates] is especially perceptive in showing the political tightrope that M.R. has to walk in her powerful but fragile position at the university…” (Wall Street Journal )

“[A] disturbing, psychological thriller.” (New York Post )

“Extraordinarily intense, racking, and resonant... Masterfully enmeshing nightmare with reality, Oates has created a resolute, incisive, and galvanizing drama about our deep connection to place, the persistence of the past, and the battles of a resilient soul under siege… A major, controversy-ready novel from high-profile, protean Oates.” (Booklist (starred review) )

“Oates [displays] the insights into human bonds that make her brilliant....Oates makes [her character’s] torment come alive. We grasp her compulsion to return to the mud of the past in order find her true self.” (USA Today )

“[A] disturbing exploration of selfhood…As always, Joyce Carol Oates masterfully evokes a sense of menace, if not malevolence, while drawing her readers deep into the psychology of her characters… a dark, intelligent and deeply compelling novel... which will hold you in its thrall until the end.” (Washington Independent Review of Books )

“There’s a freshness to this novel, a sense of some new, more personal beginning. It’s bold... to paint achievement... as just the flip side of victimization--and it’s perhaps even bolder to make such visceral drama from the story of a workaholic who finally confronts life unhooked from a keyboard.” (New York Times Book Review )

“Oates is an extremely visceral writer…Mudwoman is a genuinely unsettling book in which Oates pays her readers the compliment of never letting them settle or even being entirely sure about what they have just read.” (Financial Times )

“Mudwoman is very good at the performance of the public life of the woman president…The unraveling of this performance is grippingly horrible.” (New York Review of Books )

“Joyce Carol Oates’ latest novel is about many things, but first and foremost it is about the complications of being a high-achieving woman in the 21st century…Oates tells [her protagonist’s story] with a detail and relish that’s both heartbreaking and fascinating.” (Ms. magazine )

Product Details

  • File Size: 776 KB
  • Print Length: 731 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0062107267
  • Publisher: Ecco; Reprint edition (March 20, 2012)
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005PMWMG8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #171,107 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
51 of 56 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lack of Resolution to Various Themes March 27, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Even though a real fan of this author and having written flattering reviews of her work in the past, this work leaves me in some wonderment [in keeping with the Quaker Theme used in parts of this work]. I also felt it was overly long and repetitive in numerous places, but my biggest concern was the lack of resolution of any type of meaningful ending. It is as though it were written during a bout of schizophrenia, where many things make sense to the originator of the thoughts but not to anyone else.

The heroine survivor-woman of our story is known during her adult years as M.R. [Meredith Ruth] Neukirchen of Carthage, NY in the Adirondack Mountains. She is adopted by a very loving Quaker couple, Agatha and Konrad Neukirchen and given the birthday of 9-21-61, which is also important to the story. She was abandoned by her birth mother Marit Kraeck a very psychotic woman of extremely humble background. Marit tries to kill the child by throwing her in a mudflat, where she is found by a mentally challenged man lead there by a big black bird known as THE KING OF THE CROWS for the rest of the story. As a child she was called either Jedina or Jewell [the discovery of how that is reconciled is part of the story so I won't spoil it]. She gets the not-so-kind nickname Mudwoman, as an adult, and was called Mudgirl, while a child, due to the method of her abandonment.

Another facet of this story is that you are not always sure when an event important to the story really happened or was merely a psychotic episode imagined by our heroine, which included but are not limited to several amorous encounters.
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36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark Even by JCO Standards April 26, 2012
Mudwoman is dark even by Joyce Carol Oates standards. Oates is well known for novels featuring female leads that do not sense the physical jeopardy they are in before it is almost too late to escape it. Suddenly, these women - as intelligent and accomplished as they may be - recognize that they have wandered into a situation that could cost them their lives. The threat usually comes from an evil or deranged man but, in the case of Mudwoman, all the damage is done by a little girl's own mother.

When she is three, Jedina Kraek's mother decides to murder her and her five-year-old sister. Jedina is shaved bald as part of her mother's religious delusions and tossed into a mud flat near the Black Snake River where her mother assumes that she will drown in the muck. Against all odds, the little girl is found by a mentally handicapped local trapper and taken into a foster family for several years. When the Neukirchens, a childless Quaker couple, adopt her, Jedina (who had mistakenly claimed her older sister's name, Jewel) becomes Meredith Ruth Neukirchen.

"Merry" does her best to live up to the Quaker standards of her parents, and becomes the model student, an overachiever who compensates for her insecurities by excelling at academics. Secretly, Meredith applies for, and wins, the scholarship to Cornell that she believes will be her ticket to a new life far from stifling Carthage, New York.

Mudwoman is told in chapters that alternate between Meredith's girlhood and her present life as the first female president of a prestigious Ivy League university. Now 41, and calling herself M.R.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing August 4, 2012
By Peggy
I found this book to be very difficult to read. It skipped back and forth too often and it was very confusing. I was never really sure if M.R. was actually living something, dreaming, or hallucinating. The writing left a lot to be desired with many awkward or fragmented sentences. It just did not flow easily. Even though I found the book hard to get through, I did finish it, only to be somewhat disappointed with the ending.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Kept waiting for something September 12, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
While this story opened with an intensity that prompted me to keep reading, things just went downhill. I have read Joyce Carol Oates and enjoyed her writing which prompted me to read this. What an arduous task. Wouldn't let it get the better of me - just knew there must be something at the end to pull it all together. Wrong.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Riveting..haunting..daunting. April 20, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I was unable to stop reading this, once started. Disturbing, yes. Disappointing, no! I dont understand how readers can be disappointed by an ending. This is the way JCO intended. It is the same as criticizing a painting because it does not follow conventional beauty. I was and continue to be confused about certains aspects of the novel, but this mirrors my own mind, blurred lines between the real and imagined. Memories as seen through another's life and mind. I read it in one taut marathon sitting. Reading through the night, a darkened house, with all the night noises scaring the heck out of me, and ghosts behind every door!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My mom threw me away! What am I worth? October 14, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
"Mudwoman" is a fable of the quest for self-worth. A very young girl was thrown by her mother to her death, into the local river's mudflats, in the 1960's. But the child survived, and now M.R. Neukirchen is a successful, high-achieving, 40-something woman, searching desperately for her own value. The final scene delivers the answer to her quest in a fateful and unexpected encounter. "Mudwoman" is a powerful and thoughtful book.

I found the ending confusing at first. The novel was a good read -- it flowed smoothly and was delightfully insightful -- but I didn't understand how the ending related, or what the overall theme was. And the book is complex. It weaves two fully-developed threads through each other, across time, with plenty of important characters, past and present. It had to mean something.

Maria Russo's NY Times review (March 30, 2012) touches on something important. Russo first highlights one of M.R.'s comments -- "My dream is to be -- of service!" -- then asks: "At what point is a prolific worker a kind of sucker? Is all the productivity just a way to escape the pain of facing other areas of life?"

Ms Russo hit the nail on the head. The book is a tragedy of the search for self-worth. M.R. works herself to the bone. She wants to be of use -- to be valuable, to be loved, respected, admired, esteemed -- and ultimately whole. She fantasizes self-aggrandizingly about how impressive her statements or actions will be.

But M.R.'s decision-making becomes skewed. She makes one bad judgment after another. She has a fine and intelligent mind, but doesn't always think straight. Her over-exertion and introversion -- is it misanthropy? -- addle her brain.

She collects bad relationships. Her brain is an echo chamber.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars True excellence. A book with this level of depth ...
True excellence. A book with this level of depth can be challenging and fascinating provided some actual thinking is not repugnant to the reader.
Published 2 days ago by Irayna W.
3.0 out of 5 stars Became rather tedious, sometimes difficult to follow in spite of...
Became rather tedious, sometimes difficult to follow in spite of beautifully structured prose. This is not an "easy read" although JCO is always entertaining.
Published 9 days ago by Carol Rodhouse
1.0 out of 5 stars Only Mud for "Mudwoman"
I was greatly disappointed. I have enjoyed may Oates' books but I did not enjoy this. It seemed to me disjointed, weird, and at times using high-blown language unnecessarily. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Mimi
5.0 out of 5 stars horror and high academia
having written so many volumes over the decades, developing a personal style with recurring themes, and not repeating oneself, for an author as prolific as oates, is close to... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Case Quarter
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Not a happy story but so well written I couldn't put it down 5 stars!
Published 2 months ago by kay layman
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
Was very confusing at the beginning
Published 4 months ago by Suzanne Michaels
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
its always the super smart people. to confusing
Published 4 months ago by Janna Weir
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book.
Published 4 months ago by P. Houtz
2.0 out of 5 stars UN-satisfying!!
2 Stars -- I did NOT like it -- definitely not my preferred read -- I regret I bought it. Now -- having said all that, I DID finish the book, with never one thought of not doing... Read more
Published 5 months ago by G6gxp
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
What a strange and haunting book. One that I thought about for a very long time after reading.
Published 6 months ago by momofone
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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.

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