The Gravedigger's Daughter

The Gravedigger's Daughter
by: Joyce Carol Oates

Published: 2007

# of pages: 582

Quote: "Yet she was drawn to gaze into the display windows. So much! So many things! And a girl's wan, ghostly face reflection super-imposed upon them, magically." -p. 179

This book is hard for me to review. It changes so much from beginning to end. The first part of the book is horrible. It's about a girl, Rebecca, who is living with her (crazy) family in a graveyard in New York after they flee Nazi Germany. She's abused in many different ways. There's a lot of bad language and it really bogged me down. I didn't want to read it because it was so disgusting and dreary. However, I didn't have any other books from the library so this was it. Plus, I hate not finishing a book. There's been a handful of books that I've put away without finishing.

Thankfully the middle of the book starts lightening up even though poor Rebecca's life doesn't really lighten up. What gave me that impression was the bad language tapering off and the fact that Rebecca has some hope. Whereas before she was in a bad situation and had no hope, now she's in a bad situation with hope.

The last part of the book is the best. Rebecca starts a new life and shows strength by forging ahead and breaking away from her past. The bad language is very rare in the last part of the book and everything seems more light hearted. Obviously she still struggles with everyday situations that get everyone down, and she still has to worry about her past catching up with her, but overall her life is much improved.

It was fascinating to see how the main character changes and have that change manifested in the language and wording of the narrative. The reader also changes their opinions and emotions while reading farther into the book. The importance of the past...and the future, is woven into the storyline. The subjects of identity and labels are also a large part of the story.

I recommend this book to adults who like "deep" books and aren't afraid of emotional stories. I think this book would also be an interesting study of feminism, so if that is a subject that interests you, this book may be worth reading.


Andi said...

I love Oates's ability to write powerful (if disturbing) prose that can take me completely into the world she's created. Her novella, Beasts, is one of my all-time favorites for this very reason. It made me feel a little bit sick to my stomach, but I SO admire her writing ability in general. I will likely pick this one up at some point, but definitely not if I'm already feeling down in the dumps.

Great review!

Nymeth said...

I agree with Andi. Everything I've read by Oates so far was disturbing, but also immensely powerful. This sounds like a difficult read, but I'd like to give it a try some day.

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