Joyce Carol Oates, the "grand mistress of ghoulishness" (Publishers Weekly
), showcases her mastery in four deeply disturbing novellas that will leave the reader both quaking and pining for more
In the titular novella, an academic in Pennsylvania discovers a terrifying trauma from her past after inheriting a house in Cardiff, Maine from someone she has never heard of. Mia, the protagonist of "Miao Dao," is a pubescent girl overcome with loneliness, who befriends a feral cat that becomes her protector from the increasingly aggressive males that surround her.
A brilliant but shy college sophomore realizes that she is pregnant in "Phan-tomwise: 1972." Distraught, she allows a distinguished visiting professor to take her under his wing, though it quickly becomes evident that he is interested in more than an academic mentorship. Lastly, "The Surviving Child" is Stefan, who was spared when his mother, a famous poet, killed his sister and herself. Stefan's father remarries, but his young wife is haunted by dead poet's voice dancing in the wind, an inexplicably befouled well, and a compulsive draw to the same gar-age that took two lives.
In these psychologically daring, chillingly suspenseful pieces, Joyce Carol Oates writes about women facing threats past and present.