Friday, November 11, 2016

Book Review: Black Water by Joyce Carol Oates

I just saw this book on a list of great true-crime inspired fiction, and I'd liked several other books on the list, and Ms. Oates in my sister-in-law's favorite author, so I figured I'd give it a try when I saw it at the used bookstore. Plus, since it's based on the Chappaquiddick incident with Ted Kennedy and Mary Jo Kopechne, I thought it was be an exciting thriller with salacious celebrity details, which would be a perfectly uber-distracting book for my down mood.

Well, the mood was very wrong. Instead, it downplays all salacious elements of the original story, and there's no thriller aspects to it. Instead, nearly half the book is Kelly (the Mary Jo character), trapped in the car, with water rising, pondering her imminent death, and she hopes the Senator will come back or bring help. The book was very evocative, I could almost feel the murky black water myself, coming closer and closer, Kelly thought back to the party, to her childhood, to her parents. Most of the book is flashbacks. We also get the Senator's side, but less so.

I can see why this book was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Despite being kind of the opposite type of book I was looking for tonally, I couldn't put it down. I read it all in one day. It was chilling and sad and as the hope drained out of Kelly and out of the car, I really wished the ending would be different. The book of course wouldn't have been as powerful if it was, and it is interesting going into a book like this when you know the end from the start, and seeing how the author nonetheless manages suspense and tension. It was a great novel for anyone who likes their fiction dark and sad. Ms. Oates can sure write circle around anyone!

I bought this book at Montclair Book Center.

1 comment:

Tea Norman said...

I remember that scandal. Your review really makes me want to read the book. Joyce Carol Oates is a wonderful author.