The Gravedigger's Daughter
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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.
In The Gravedigger’s Daughter, Oates has created a masterpiece of domestic yet mythic realism, at once emotionally engaging and intellectually provocative: an intimately observed testimony to the resilience of the individual to set beside such predecessors as The Falls, Blonde, and We Were the Mulvaneys.
Rebecca quits school and finds a job, which leads her to the first love her life Niles Tignor. Tignor, however, is abusive, and nearly kills Rebecca before she can escape. She determines a new identity for herself and lives the rest of her life out guarded and scared that Tignor will return for her.
Given previous blockbuster novels by Oates, I was really looking forward to this book. I'm sorry to say that it was a big disappointment. The characters were not likable and impossible to relate to. Rebecca's character was so guarded, that she was even guarded from the reader. I questioned each explanation she gave, expecting there to be some different meaning behind what she was doing.
The story also moved very slow. I kept waiting for the big build-up for the end of the story since the entire novel had such a slow pace. The build up never came and the novel just ended, leaving me gaping over the fact that the novel had ended and nothing had really happened.
This novel will not turn me off reading another Joyce Carol Oates book, but if this was the first Oates book I had read, I would not be reaching too quickly for the next one.