cover image The (Other) You: Stories

The (Other) You: Stories

Joyce Carol Oates. Ecco, $26.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-303520-1

Oates (Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars) delivers a dark, moody collection permeated by themes of obsession, remorse, and violence. In the title story, a secondhand bookstore owner ruminates over the college entrance exam that sealed her fate to remain in humdrum Yewville, N.Y. A sinister twist surprises in “The Women Friends,” in which two women find themselves in the same café as a jittery suicide bomber. The café reappears throughout the book, culminating in the gripping “Final Interview,” where a notoriously reclusive author imagines a final act of vengeance against the world. Dashed hopes and glances at the past interrupt another author’s life in “The Unexpected,” in which the protagonist returns to Yewville to deliver a commencement speech, only to be humbled by friends from her childhood. The recently widowed creative writing teacher at the center of the brilliant “The Happy Place” discovers not even a reckless obsession with a student could fill the gaping hollowness of her empty house, while mourning and blame overwhelm the parents of a deceased child in “Nightgrief.” Oates’s mastery of the form remains fierce and formidable in this unsettling collection of lamentations and missed opportunities. (Feb.)