Synopses & Reviews
In Salthill-on-Hudson, a half-hour train ride from Manhattan, everyone is rich, beautiful, and though they look much younger middle-aged. But when Adam Berendt, a charismatic, mysterious sculptor, dies suddenly in a brash act of heroism, shock waves rock the town.
But who was Adam Berendt? Was he in fact a hero, or someone more flawed and human? His loss and the rumors that surface of his possible lovers plunge his friends into grief, confusion, and self-reflection. The women who loved Adam find themselves engaging in life-altering romantic adventures. The men who were Adam's closest friends become utterly transformed in his absence. Adam's lawyer, Roger Cavanagh, who has broken the law for Adam's sake, becomes involved with an elusive and perhaps treacherous young woman. Marina Troy exiles herself to fulfill a wish Adam had made for her. Lionel Hoffmann sets out, unwisely but with great hope, to recapture his lost youth after a lifetime of soulless financial success, even as his wife, Camille, discovers an unspeakable joy close to home. Augusta Cutler, a hitherto sensuous, unreflective woman, defiantly endeavors to solve the mystery of Adam's origins, even if it means losing her marriage and family.
Middle Age: A Romance is an intimately drawn, richly sympathetic, yet unsparingly comic portrait of the affluent class at the dawn of the twenty-first century. Incisive, insightful, and never predictable, it's a uniquely American saga of self-determination and identity from one of our finest writers of contemporary fiction.
"[Middle Age: A Romance] is Oates in an unexpected mode, kicking up her heels in a delightful comic romp....Rarely has [she] displayed such tender wisdom about the ways in which well-meaning people go astray yet manage to find themselves." Washington Post Book World
"A magnificent treat....With wit and tenderness Oates takes us on the roller-coaster ride of Middle Age in pursuit of a last adventure, a last romance, a last defiance of the impending grave..." San Francisco Chronicle
"Reminiscent of her powerful Black Water, but equipped with a happy ending, Oates's latest once more confirms her mastery of the form." Publishers Weekly
"[Oates] brings the full weight of her caustic wit and irony to bear on a subject that intimidates and enervates but, ultimately, liberates." Booklist
"Middle Age has its moments, but it's basically redundant and shapeless..." Kirkus Reviews
"Hilarious and mournful. [Oates's] realism is laced with suspense, her mastery of storytelling on full display." Newsweek
In Salthill-on-Hudson, a half-hour train ride from Manhattan, everyone is rich, beautiful, and though they look much younger middle-aged. But when Adam Berendt, a charismatic, mysterious sculptor, dies suddenly in a brash act of heroism, shock waves rock the town. But who was Adam Berendt? Was he in fact a hero, or someone more flawed and human?
About the Author
Award-winning author, Joyce Carol Oates was born in 1938 and grew up in upstate New York. While a scholarship student at Syracuse University, she won the coveted Mademoiselle
fiction contest. She graduated as valedictorian, then earned an M.A. at the University of Wisconsin. In 1968, she began teaching at the University of Windsor. In 1978, she moved to New Jersey to teach creative writing at Princeton University, where she is now the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities.
A prolific writer, Joyce Carol Oates has produced some of the most controversial, and lasting, fiction of our time. Her novel, them, set in racially volatile 1960s Detroit, won the 1970 National Book Award. Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is My Heart focused on an interracial teenage romance. Black Water, a narrative based on the Kennedy-Chappaquiddick scandal, garnered a Pulitzer Prize nomination, and her national bestseller Blonde, an epic work on American icon Marilyn Monroe, became a National Book Award Finalist. Although Joyce Carol Oates has called herself, "a serious writer, as distinct from entertainers or propagandists," her novels have enthralled a wide audience, and We Were the Mulvaneys earned the #1 spot on the New York Times bestseller list.
Reading Group Guide
Questions for Discussion
1. Joyce Carol Oates gives readers some conundrums to puzzle out in this work. Why call the book Middle Age: A Romance? Why name the town "Salthill-on-Hudson"? Why kill off the hero on the Fourth of July? Why name him Adam? Why name his dog Apollo? Have some fun trying to figure out what the author had in mind with any of these elements or others you find on your own.
2. In an interview with Greg Johnson, her biographer, Joyce Carol Oates said, "All my longer novels are political, but not obtrusively so, I hope." Middle Age: A Romance would be considered one of her longer novels. Do you think it's "political"?
3. One interview question that gets a prickly response from Joyce Carol Oates is: "Why is your writing so violent?" She calls the question "insulting" and "always sexist." However, even in this romance, she includes a healthy dollop of violent, one might even say grisly, events. What are they? What do they add to the story? Why are they necessary?
4. Exploring who we are our identity is a recurring theme in the writing of Joyce Carol Oates. Adam Berendt reinvents himself. Why? Is reinventing ourselves a choice we can all make? Would you, given the chance, change your name? Abandon your past? Live a different life? Why or why not?