Rebecca Schwart came over to America from Germany when she was a baby. Her father got a job as a gravedigger and was bitter and cold towards his family, though they all just passed it off as tough love. Unfortunately, this family life proves too much for both of Rebecca's brothers, as they escape from "Pa's" suffocating grasp, never to be seen again. When Rebecca witnesses a horrible crime at the age of 13, her life is forever changed.
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.