Looking for a spooky vampire/ghost book? This isn't it.
How about an easy book to listen to that flows smoothly? Nope.
Anyone who reads Joyce Carol Oates knows that isn't what she is about. Nothing is ever really black and white. This is a massive undertaking by Oates which took decades of research and writing (it apparently was developed over 30 years.) Still, I think it kind of fell flat.
I don't even know if I could really call this work by Oates enjoyable. I loved some prior novels like We Were the Mulvaneys and The Falls. This one takes work to get through.
SOCIAL INJUSTICE is front and center - social issues which still exist today. Racism, sexism, (lots of sexism) class hostility, and issues with the meat processing industry thrown in for good measure.
The "meat" of the book:
There is a Curse raging in Princeton, NJ against the elite blue-bloods. Told from the point of view of an amateur historian, the main character throughout is Rev. Winslow Slade and his family. His children are picked off one by one as they fall prey to demons or spirits. Of course, they are not the only casualties of the vampire/ghost things. All told with a metaphorical slant.
Although the book is basically historical fiction, there are real people involved in actual events from that time (1905-1906) -along with fictional characters to round out the drama.
Some of the real people involved were Woodrow Wilson, Upton Sinclair, Jack London, Grover Cleveland and Theodore Roosevelt. Mark Twain and Sherlock Holmes even make appearances. What do all these people have to do with each other? Not a lot.
There was an interesting exchange between Upton Sinclair and Jack London after Sinclair wrote The Jungle and he tried to engage London to help him with his social causes. London had also just written a best seller, and came to speak at a book event at the request of Sinclair--which didn't turn out as Sinclair had hoped.
Also, a lot of political maneuvering- some involving Woodrow Wilson and his mentor, Rev. Slade. Wilson was the President of Princeton University at the time, and had a lot of problems with the staff and students. He felt there were underhanded challenges to his authority, and looked to Slade for suggestions.
I found the spiritual/demon sprinkling throughout to be unnecessary and not very effective.
At times I was frustrated and disappointed with the sections that dragged (60%)
I found some of it interesting, when I would have a "finally" moment (20%)
Some of the novel could have been eliminated without losing content (20%)
I got through the whole thing partly due to the excellent narration by Grover Gardner.
Even so, I don't think I could give this a favorable recommendation unless you are a complete Oates die-hard fan--and are prepared to be bored a large part of the time.
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