cover image Cardiff, by the Sea

Cardiff, by the Sea

Joyce Carol Oates. Mysterious, $26 (416p) ISBN 978-0-8021-5799-7

The four novellas in this spellbinding collection from Oates (Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars.) carefully tread the boundary between psychological and supernatural expressions of the macabre. In the title story, a sinister gothic confection, a young woman inherits a house from the grandmother she never knew, prompting her to explore the harrowing family history that led to her adoption as a toddler. “Phantomwise: 1972” evokes the work of Lewis Carroll in its account of a heroine, Alyce, enmeshed in a skewed reality. In “The Surviving Child,” a new wife caring for her stepson is haunted by the palpable presence of the boy’s mother, who killed both herself and her young daughter. Oates masterfully digs into the turbulent psyches of her characters and makes it ambiguous to the reader how much of the strange worlds they navigate are projections of their own anxieties and longings—especially in “Miao Dao,” about a teenage heroine who obsessively protects a feral cat. This superb outing is sure to captivate. Agent: Warren Frazier, John Hawkins & Assoc. (Oct.)