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Missing Mom (P.S.)by Joyce Carol Oates
Synopses & Reviews
"Last time you see someone and you don't know it will be the last time. And all that you know now, if only you'd known then. But you didn't know, and now it's too late. And you tell yourself How could I have known, I could not have known..."
Nikki Eaton never thought much of herself as a daughter. Still single at thirty-one, and entangled in an affair with a married man, Nikki remains a source of consternation to her family. Her older sister, Clare, with her handsome husband and cute kids, is the more mature, more reliable, more conventional daughter. And while their mother, Gwen, adores both of her daughters, she disapproves of many of Nikki's choices, and is open about wanting to see her settle down into a life that could bring her lasting happiness.
Following the unexpected loss of her mother, Gwen, Nikki's identity is transformed by her profound grief. Over the course of a tumultuous year of mourning, as she confronts her true feelings about her mother and her sister, and what it means to be a daughter, Nikki comes to understand herself and what she wants in life. Her emotional journey brings sorrow, illumination, wisdom, and even from an unexpected source a nurturing love.
"Oates's latest returns to upstate New York's Mount Ephraim, the setting of We Were the Mulvaneys, Oates's 1996 novel — a 2001 Oprah pick — about one family's privilege and decay. This time, Oates turns to the middle class: narrator Nikki Eaton, 31, is a reporter for the smalltown Beacon and her family's black sheep. She's having an affair with a married DJ; she barely tolerates her widowed mother, Gwen, and her homemaker sister, Clare. As the novel opens, Nikki arrives at Gwen's Mother's Day party with newly spiked, 'inky-maroon' hair and contempt for Gwen's cooking, one-story house and endless munificence to her ragtag guests. Two days later, Gwen is murdered by an ex-con. Chronicling Nikki's year following Gwen's death, the novel includes some wonderfully precise emotional observations. But more often the prose sags beneath the weight of banal information and a story line too redolent of pulp. Naturally, the 'swarthy' police detective investigating Gwen's murder initially seems repulsive, and naturally, in the novel's final pages, Nikki thinks: 'I had not noticed in the past how strong his profile was.' There are no surprises, that's for sure. And yet the novel is so conventional and relentlessly detailed that it can't help showing its characters behaving in ways that resonate. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Oates's grip on crime, violence and the long-buried is sure, but Missing Mom is actually more disturbing in its relentless, dead-on accretion of small-time, small-town, middle-class details. Oates piles them on with pitiless virtuosity." New York Times Book Review
"It may not make a big splash, but loyal fans will want it." Library Journal
"The only halfway credible character is Gwen's surly tomcat Smoky — probably because we aren't made privy to his thoughts. After last year's triumph The Falls, Oates gives us this? Get this woman an editor." Kirkus Reviews
"Missing Mom" is the story of Nikki Eaton, a liberated 31-year-old woman who never thought of herself as a daughter until the sudden loss of her mother. After a tumultuous year of sorrow, illumination, and wisdom, Nikki finds a nurturing love from an unexpected source in Oates's moving novel.
Nikki Eaton, single, thirty-one, sexually liberated, and economically self-supporting, has never particularly thought of herself as a daughter. Yet, following the unexpected loss of her mother, she undergoes a remarkable transformation during a tumultuous year that brings stunning horror, sorrow, illumination, wisdom, and even—from an unexpected source—a nurturing love.
About the Author
Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Book Award and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction. She has written some of the most enduring fiction of our time, including the national bestsellers We Were the Mulvaneys and Blonde, which was nominated for the National Book Award. 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. In 2003 she received the Common Wealth Award for Distinguished Service in Literature and the Kenyon Review Award for Literary Achievement.
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