A Fair Maiden
Joyce Carol Oates, . . Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $22 (165pp) ISBN 978-0-15-101516-0
Sixteen-year-old Katya Spivak and elderly Marcus Kidder share a bizarre romance in Oates’s derivative and unpolished new novel. In bland Bayhead Harbor, N.J., Katya serves as a nanny to the Engelhardts’ two young children. Attractive Katya—unappreciated by her alcoholic mother, mistreated by the tyrannical Engelhardts—is intrigued by the attentions of wealthy Mr. Kidder, a former children’s book author and amateur painter. The courting is slow at first, but after Katya accepts Mr. Kidder’s money to help her mother pay off a debt, things accelerate. Soon Katya is posing for Mr. Kidder in lingerie and receiving payment upon each visit. She begins to feel used, but is thankful for the attention—until one evening when Mr. Kidder possibly drugs her, at which point something equally bizarre and predictable happens. Katya and Mr. Kidder’s final meeting reveals Mr. Kidder’s true intention for Katya, but the revelation isn’t worth the buildup. This is certainly one of Oates’s lesser works.
Reviewed on: 04/06/2009