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Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars.: A Novel Hardcover – June 9, 2020
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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.
- Publisher : Ecco (June 9, 2020)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 800 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0062797581
- ISBN-13 : 978-0062797582
- Item Weight : 1.42 pounds
- Dimensions : 6 x 1.85 x 9 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #241,363 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Oates looks at Whitey McClaren’s death from all sides. How it can effect the widow’s relationships with her children and with her longtime community.
Oates’s book has many characters- including McClaren’s wife and 5 children- as well as community and law enforcement leaders. The fact that Oates picks a white man (in fact, his nickname is “Whitey”, due to his lush head of white hair) to feature as a victim of police violence is an interesting choice. But Joyce Carol Oates is an interesting author. Her newest book is a great read. If you liked “We Were the Mulvanney’s”, I think you’ll like and appreciate this book.
The plot, in a grossly oversimplified nutshell, documents the dissolution of a family after the death of its patriarch, and the response(s) of the main protagonist, his widow. You really don't know what's coming next until the very last page. My highest recommendation.
The book was advertised and touted as being about racism and police brutality. At best, this was a secondary sideline to the main story which was the ways in which the family adjusted to the death of their father. I continue to read through to the end, hoping for some unifying thread in the book that would be revealed at the end, and trusting it would be worth my time simply based on the renown of the author. I was wrong. I haven't read any other JCO books, but based on this one I wouldn't choose to do so. Other reviewers have stated that they have enjoyed other Oates' books, just not this one.
This novel's title comes from the last line of 'A Clear Midnight', a poem by Walt Whitman. He is "pondering the themes thou lovest best" - night, sleep, death, the stars. Ms. Oates has captured the essence of this love as she grapples with loss, rebirth, darkness, and the infinite presence of love, both present, past, and eternal.
The novel is about the McClaren family, a well-to-do family of two adults and five grown children. On his way home from work, Whitey, the family patriarch, sees a dark skinned man being unfairly assaulted by police officers. Whitey (so nicknamed for the color of his hair), stops his car and asks the police to relent in their assault. The police tell him to get back in his car and go away. Whitey refuses and the police turn on him, tasering him repeatedly, kicking and beating him into unconsciousness. The police, realizing they have gone too far, call 911 and Whitey is taken to the hospital under the pretenses that he had a stroke or heart attack. The only witness is the man who was the original target of the police who happens to be a doctor in the same hospital where Whitey resides in a coma.
Ms. Oates depicts, in minutiae and through a macro lens, the depths of feeling and unique character of each family member. There is Jessalyn, Whitey's wife, and five grown children, I felt like I grew to know them all. The character development over time is astonishingly perspicacious and relevant to the family dynamics and the impact of external circumstances that each of the family members is grappling with.
This novel, at almost 800 pages, is a tome and I loved almost every single bit of it. Parts of it reminded me of Ms. Oates' memoir 'A Widow's Story' as she describes the torment and hopelessness that ravages Jessalyn. Not all the characters are likable and some are downright despicable, Every person in the novel is unique.
This is a novel to savor, if that is possible. I found it hard to put down and looked forward to reading it every day. Ms. Oates has an absolute ability to portray family dynamics realistically, somewhat like a trompe l'oeil painting. As a clinical social worker and family therapist, I can vouch for that.
This novel is prescient, as if Ms. Oates had twenty-twenty foresight into the future. Today's news could have been based on this novel. The brutality of the police, the profiling of the doctor, the assault on a witness, and the ultimate covering up of the truth rings so true. Thank you Ms. Oates for this wonderful reading experience.
Top reviews from other countries
For me a book that I read hungrily as often as possible ( in this case during meals , while telly was on etc)
till the last word- is the best and most wonderful find.
Thank you JCO for a fantastic enjoyable read