We Were the Mulvaneys , Oates's 1996 novel—a 2001
 

Missing Mom

Joyce Carol Oates, Author
Joyce Carol Oates, Author . Ecco $25.95 (434p) ISBN 978-0-06-081621-6
Pre-Recorded Audio Player - 978-1-60252-850-5
Paperback - 434 pages - 978-0-06-081622-3
Open Ebook - 464 pages - 978-0-06-089602-7
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 464 pages - 978-0-06-089599-0
Ebook - 464 pages - 978-0-06-117849-8
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Hardcover - 680 pages - 978-0-7862-8576-1
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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.)

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