Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Joyce Carol Oates
Before us lays the story of woman of mud, Mudwoman, whose mother threw her as a 4-year old to die in the marsh area in a puddle of mud, so the girl got her nickname from that fact. No one, however, does call her that, except herself.
The novel is set in two time layers, one of which tells of Mudwoman’s childhood, the other - of her present, in the 2000s.
Abandoned by the crazy mother, Mudwoman, Jewell then, has been found by not entirely sane local man. Girl didn’t speak at all, that’s why the guardianship concluded the girl is slightly retarded. Police had tried to find Jewell’s mother and her younger sister, but the woman was gone. The girl ends up in a shelter that the Skedd family keeps. They raise orphans from all around the area, some of them after being adopted. In the house the girl learns how to think like everyone else, how to speak, remembers her name. Skedds is a married pair, who likes children, but if the children do something wrong, they use corporal punishment.
After spending some time in a shelter, a couple adopts the girl, whose daughter had recently died. New Jewell’s parents are Konrad are Agatha Neukirchen.
Like other novels by Joyce Carol Oates, this is good, but not enough for a happiness cry. A solid prose, a good plot on not the most original material, the depth study of the main character, an interesting structure, but something is missing.
The story of an abandoned girl, now grown and succeded, and is by no means new, but Oates refreshes bored premise. If many of the book characters are not written properly, then M.R., Mudwoman herself is a very deep character. The author shows in detail how the past intrudes into the present and destroys it. All that was forgotten for years, suddenly goes out. Genes have an effect, Mudgirl becomes Mudwoman. Alternating time layers adds intrigue to the book, gradually revealing the nature of M.R.
The style of the book is directly connected with the plot. When M.R. starts to recall her past, her thoughts now and then are stumbling, jumping, making prose more confused (in a good sense of the word), M,P. now and then repeats her own words.
The book has two flaws. Oates is trying to weave modern politics in the novel by placing a layer of the novel in 2002-2003 - the beginning of the war in Iraq. But in addition to non-developed speculations on the topic of democracy the novel does not offer anything new. Awkwardness of the book can be considered as a murder (or rather, an accident) of one of the characters. Oates certainly wanted to shove an unexpected death into the book, but death itself doesn’t lie into the canvas, and reliability suffers. As a result, the murder is forgotten soon enough, becoming merely a pretext for the heroine’s nervous breakdown.
This book is better than many others, but it is not ideal.