cover image You Must Remember This

You Must Remember This

Joyce Carol Oates. Dutton Books, $13.95 (436pp) ISBN 978-0-525-24545-2

Prolific writer Oates demonstrates awesome talent in her new novel, a family saga, set against the backdrop of conservatism that marked America in the 1950s. Through the actions of Lyle Stevick and his family, Oates creates a vivid portrait of bewildered, inarticulate people pushed against the narrow boundaries of their era by their emotions. Lyle is a man of small failures and smaller successes, a dealer in used furniture whose marriage is a continual reminder of one moment's misspent passion. He regards his brother Felix, a boxer, with cynicism born of envy. Lyle loves his children, but clearly does not know them. He is blind to his daughter Enid's affair with the virile Felix. Oates is not easy on her characters. She moves them through McCarthyism, backyard fallout shelters and illegal abortions, slapping them with harsh reflections of their weaknesses. Fully developed, they are described in language that is both elegant and gritty. The scenes between Enid and Felix add a pulsing, sensate eroticism. Infused with narrative energy, this is one of Oates's strongest books in many seasons. 50,000 first printing; major ad/promo; Literary Guild main selection. (August 10)