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Mudwoman: A Novel Paperback – February 5, 2013
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“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)
From the Back Cover
Mudgirl is a child abandoned in the silty flats of the Black Snake River. Cast aside, Mudgirl survives by an accident of fate—or destiny. After her rescue, the well-meaning couple who adopt Mudgirl quarantine her poisonous history behind the barrier of their middle-class values. But the bulwark of the present proves surprisingly vulnerable to the agents of the past.
Meredith "M.R." Neukirchen is the first woman president of an Ivy League university. Her commitment to her career and moral fervor for her role are all-consuming, but when confronted with challenges to her leadership she could not have anticipated, the fierce idealism and intelligence that delivered her from a more conventional life threaten to undo her.
A reckless trip thrusts M.R. into an unexpected psychic collision with Mudgirl and the life M.R. believes she has left behind. A powerful exploration of the enduring claims of the past, Mudwoman is at once a psychic ghost story and an intimate and compelling portrait of a highly complex contemporary woman cracking the glass ceiling at enormous personal cost.
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
So, for example, I was personally put off—strongly put off—by occasional references thoughout this novel to 9/11, the “war on terror,” Bush and Cheney, etc. Most often, when I felt inclined to put this novel aside, unfinished, it was because of such references.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I'm a fan of JCO and have read many of her books. I wanted to like this story more, but it was just too odd and disjointed for my taste. Read morePublished 13 days ago by M. Montour
I read this only to see how it would end, but found no ending. It just trailed off and I did not find myself speculating what was next.Published 2 months ago by M. S. Haag
I did not like the way the story flowed and it just wasn't my kind of bookPublished 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
I absolutely love reading anything written BT Joyce Carol Oates. Am reading Mudwoman now and am enjoying the story. Did I mention that I love reading Joyce Carol Oates novels?Published 4 months ago by Karen a schick
A wll written engaging novel about an abused child who becomes very successful, but because of her demons cannot really continue to function as responsible adult. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Dr. Rosalind Jacobs
2 days of my life I will never get back. Boring, rambling, not sure what the point of this dark book is. Sorry, I really enjoyed it in the beginning. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Gailsmith
It was hard to tell what was a "dream" and what wasn't at times. It was a large book--I kept having the thought that it should be about half as long, but I kept reading... Read morePublished 11 months ago by MARY
hard to read;i skimmed a lot of it. especially all the politics . IT WAS HARD TO TELL WHAT WAS REALLYHAPPENING AND WHAT WAS HALLUCINATION . Read morePublished 12 months ago by beryl e cost
Mudwoman is a book for serious, educated readers of literary fiction who like to sink their teeth into psychologically accurate portrayals of complex, damaged, intelligent people -... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Jennifer Dwight