Synopses & Reviews
In her long-awaited new novel, the peerless Joy Williams has produced a masterpiece of contemporary American life, in all its bizarrely comic, surreally tragic truths.
Three motherless girls–Alice, intent on saving the earth from humanity’s abuse; Corvus, who finds solace in caring for the dying; and Annabel, for whom fashion and cosmetics are armor against her fears–move through Arizona’s desert landscape and encounter its misfit inhabitants. Annabel’s father is literally haunted by the very vocal ghost of his wife. A pianist prefers dark thoughts to the sprightly songs he plays at rich men’s parties. A tycoon with a fondness for taxidermy befriends a child who reviles his passion. Achingly recognizable, profoundly imaginative, this is a novel that lingers long in the mind.
"Joy Williams' latest novel tracks the bizarre tale of three girls drawn together by loss traveling into the desert. Alice is a 15-year-old who has an opinion on everything, Corvus is an orphan
whose parents died in a freak accident, Annabel is a rich, lively, somewhat shallow girl who lives with her father in a house haunted by the ghost of her mother. This unusual group is united by the fact that each of them has lost her mother. On their long journey, the three encounter a variety of eccentrics, misfits, and otherwise quirky characters, each drawn with deft brilliance by Williams. This by turns comic and horrifying tale of wounded souls traveling barren terrain is by no means an easy trip for a reader, but it is well worth the ride." Reviewed by Andrew Witmer, Virginia Quarterly Review (Copyright 2006 Virginia Quarterly Review)
A Pulitzer Prize Finalist
From one of our most heralded writers--Joy Williams belongs, James Salter has written, "in the company of Celine, Flannery O'Connor, and Margaret Atwood"--her first novel in more than a decade: the life-and-death adventures of three misfit teenagers in the American desert.
Alice, Corvus, and Annabel, each a motherless child, are an unlikely circle of friends. One filled with convictions, another with loss, the third with a worldly pragmatism, they traverse an air-conditioned landscape eccentric with signs and portents--from the preservation of the living dead in a nursing home to the presentation of the dead as living in a wildlife museum--accompanied by restless, confounded adults. A father lusts after his handsome gardener even as he's haunted (literally) by his dead wife; a heartbroken dog runs afoul of an angry neighbor; a young stroke victim drifts westward, his luck running from worse to awful; a sickly musician for whom Alice develops an attraction is drawn instead toward darker imaginings and solutions; and an aging big-game hunter finds spiritual renewal through his infatuation with an eight-year-old--the formidable Emily Bliss Pickless. With nature thoroughly routed and the ambiguities of existence on full display, life and death continue in directions both invisible and apparent. Gloriously funny and wonderfully serious, The Quick and the Deadlimns the vagaries of love, the thirst for meaning, and the peculiar paths by which all creatures are led to their destiny.
A panorama of contemporary life and an endlessly surprising tour de force: penetrating and magical, ominous and comic, this is the most astonishing book yet in Joy Williams's illustrious career.
About the Author
Joy Williams lives in Arizona and Key West.