The Gravedigger's Daughter: Book summary and reviews of The Gravedigger's Daughter by Joyce Carol Oates

The Gravedigger's Daughter

By Joyce Carol Oates

The Gravedigger's Daughter
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  • Published in USA  May 2007,
    592 pages.

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Book Summary

In 1936 the Schwarts, an immigrant family desperate to escape Nazi Germany, settle in a small town in upstate New York, where the father, a former high school teacher, is demeaned by the only job he can get: gravedigger and cemetery caretaker. After local prejudice and the family's own emotional frailty result in unspeakable tragedy, the gravedigger's daughter, Rebecca, begins her astonishing pilgrimage into America, an odyssey of erotic risk and imaginative daring, ingenious self-invention, and, in the end, a bittersweet—but very "American"—triumph. "You are born here, they will not hurt you"—so the gravedigger has predicted for his daughter, which will turn out to be true.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

Starred Review. "Everything in this book depends on Oates' ability to bring a woman before the reader who is deeply veiled—whose real name is unknown even to herself—and she does it with epic panache." - PW

"A truly representative sampling of this unpredictable author's grind-it-out strengths and mind-boggling weaknesses. " - Kirkus.

"Starred Review. Oates is supremely atmospheric, erotic, and suspenseful in this virtuoso novel of identity, power, and moral reckoning." - Booklist.

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Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by FrancoiseBH
Complex subject matter, intense writing...
The complexity of the subject matter combined with the intensity of the writing will easily overcome any emotional resistance the reader may oppose, this book is anything but an easy or fast-paced reading…
The story reaches the most unexpected conclusion with a twenty five pages epistolary epilogue which I wept all the way thru, it is the most moving and most stirring coda I have ever read; at the end of the Harper Perennial edition, Edmund White, the American author and literary critic, interviews Joyce Carol Oates on this novel and she confides to him: «The letters at the end of the novel, though written by me, yet have the power to bring tears to my eyes, after repeated readings, Isn't this strange!»
I am a great fan of this great American author, this is the third book from her that I read and my admiration only grows from one book to the other.

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Author Information

Joyce Carol Oates Author Biography

Photo by Marion Ettlinger

Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Book Award and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction. She has written some of the most enduring fiction of our time, including the national bestsellers We Were the Mulvaneys and Blonde, which was nominated for the National Book Award. She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University and has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978. In 2003 she received the Common Wealth Award for Distinguished Service in Literature and the Kenyon Review Award for Literary Achievement.

Partial Bibliography
Memoir
A Widow's Story (2011)


Novels
With Shuddering Fall (1964)
Wonderland (1971)
Do with Me What You Will (1973)
Miracle Play (1974)
The ...

... Full Biography
Author Interview

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