27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
The Place to Start,
By A Customer
This review is from: Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is My Heart (Plume) (Paperback)
In her long, wildly prolific career, Oates has turned out multiple masterpieces (Them, Wonderland, Bellefleur, You Must Remember This, We Were the Mulvaneys) and even more near-masterpieces (What I Lived For, American Appetites, Expensive People, Zombie, Son of the Morning, Black Water, Broke Heart Blues) making it difficult for the beginner to know where to jump in. I'd suggest this novel, a flawlessly written, absorbingly complex study of troubled youth and race relations in a period of American history (the 1960's) that Oates can write about with as much authority as the most insightful sociologist. Eschewing pat conclusions and sentimentality, she renders a heartbreaking tale of innocence lost and expectations unfulfilled with an electric energy that carries the reader head-first down a narrative path that is as moving as it is difficult. The characters here are utterly real and their struggles to maintain some sense of identity in the face of massive social upheavel is depicted with uncommon sensitivity and grace. Oates is a master of the realist novel, and this is her finest in that vein and, indeed, in any vein. Shamefully neglected by awards committess and by the general reading public upon its release, Because it is Bitter will no doubt emerge as a classic of 20th century fiction, a work that probes, with unflinching honesty and unsurpassed skill, the depths of the human heart.