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Middle Age: A Romance (original 2001; edition 2002)
by Joyce Carol Oates (Author)
Middle Age: A Romance by Joyce Carol Oates (2001)
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Doesn't everyone simply love a happy ending? ( )
24 hours later I am still thinking about this book, especially the last poignant chapters. I have been struggling a bit as to whether I would give it 4 stars or 5 stars because it was a bit slow going at first but the individual stories of all of the characters in this book had to be explained and I now feel that Oates set the story up well in the first part of the book.
At first I thought the characters were overdrawn caricatures of real people...but then later realized that, nope, people really are this way and wealthy, somewhat privileged white people are no different than the less well-to-do strata of society who flaunt their dysfunction to the public on The Jerry Springer Show. The rich just keep their neuroses and family problems closer to the chest.
I saw my 53 year old self in this book as well and while I don't have quite the same sets of problems or the money that would allow me to deal with them in quite the same way, I found myself getting wrapped up in all of the individual characters' stories and wanting to see the resolution.
I liked the full circle aspect of the book...the death of Adam Berendt and the eventual telling of his story and I especially liked the character of Augusta Cutler who is the one who makes the road trip and discovers his story. Not so oddly, she is one of the characters I liked the least in the first part of the book (Middle Age is divided into 3 parts as well as individual chapters) but it is a credit to Oates' chronicling of her journey that I found my feelings completely turned around.
Finally, this is the first full novel I have read by Joyce Carol Oates...for whatever reason, to this point I have only read collections of her short stories....she is a master short story teller. She is also a master novelist.
Any book that brings me close to tears, I guess, is automatically a 5 star read.
I found this book in the library at the hospice where my father spent his final days. I read it on the plane flight home to soothe my mind. It was pleasant, illustrative of certain time and place and type of people (who I recognize, at least their West Coast versions), fluffy, soothing.
(46) I have really been enjoying JCO lately and this older novel circa early 2000's was no exception. It takes place on Salthill-on-the-Hudson a ritzy bedroom community of Manhattan. A small group of the townspeople are affected profoundly when Adam Berendt, a middle age sculptor and bachelor friend, dies in a freak drowning accident. Adam has mysterious origins and has a way of seeing each of the husbands and wives such that they are all changed by him. His death brings precipitates several typical 'middle age' crises - infidelity, meaningful work, relationships with children, personal identity.
Especially well depicted were Roger Cavanaugh, Abigail De Pres, and Camille Hoffman - on the surface they have everything, yet they are desperately unhappy and their transformations are well done and heartfelt. I thought the relationship between Roger and his daughter was exquisitely painfully rendered. Bravo. JCO always seems to just nail contextual details that lay bare hidden human vulnerabilities that the reader must uncomfortably acknowledge. Only slight criticism; the construction of the novel is a bit meandering. In addition, the axis around which the characters revolve - Adam Berendt - happens to die in the opening scene and remains an enigma, which is a bit unsatisfying. But overall, it was an excellent reading experience.
Honestly, this is probably up there with some of my favorite JCOs. My other favorites are disparate but are the more dark or fantastical 'Bellefleur,' and 'Dark Water,' as well as the more family drama types like 'We were the Mulvaney's and 'My Sister, My Love.' An excellent sleeper pick from the used book store if you are looking for an intelligent and engaging read to get lost in. Probably resonates more because I am indeed - middle age.
Could not finish.
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Wikipedia in English (1)
In Salthill-on-Hudson, a half-hour train ride from Manhattan, everyone is rich, beautiful, and -- though they look much younger -- middle-aged. But when Adam Berendt, a charismatic, mysterious sculptor, dies suddenly in a brash act of heroism, shock waves rock the town. But who was Adam Berendt? Was he in fact a hero, or someone more flawed and human?
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)813.54Literature English (North America) American fiction 20th Century 1945-1999
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