cover image The Pursuit

The Pursuit

Joyce Carol Oates. Mysterious, $23 (224p) ISBN 978-0-8021-4791-2

Billed as a novel of suspense, this creepy thriller from Oates (My Life as a Rat) reads more like an extended short story. Abby Zengler lies in the ICU of a New Jersey hospital after accidentally stepping in front of a bus—or was it an accident? Willem, Abby’s husband of less than a day, is at her bedside, stunned at the swiftness with which their happiness has turned to horror. The couple’s misfortune serves as the frame around an infinitely darker and more disturbing composition. The tale within a tale, which Willem ever-so-gradually teases out of his wife, centers on the doomed relationship between Abby’s mother and soldier father, who years before returned from Iraq to their hometown of Chautauqua Falls, N.Y., abusive, paranoid, and irrationally jealous. Though the pair vanished from Abby’s life at age five, the trauma left in their wake remains so emotionally devastating that she can handle only glimpses of what transpired in her nightmares. The reader may well feel the same way. Oates reinforces her place as the grand mistress of ghoulishness. Agent: Warren Frazier, John Hawkins & Assoc. (Oct.)