I’m not sure who is more prolific: Stephen King or Joyce Carol Oates?
I decided to read this book to see how she handled the subject of rape. As in every Oates book, I was riveted and uncomfortable with the disturbing emotions and the ensemble of victims and dark characters.
As the title suggests there is a rape. Not just a rape but the gang rape of Teena Maguire by a pack of drugged out raging young men. Oates is a master of what she leaves out.
After she was gang – raped, kicked and beaten and left to die on the floor of the filthy boathouse at Rocky Point Park. After she was dragged into the boathouse by the five drunken guys – unless there were six, or seven – and her twelve-year-old daughter with her screaming Let us go! Don’t hurt us! Please don’t hurt us!
The humiliating journey for Teena can be summed up in a few words: suffering and darkness. She is physically and emotionally wrecked and retreats to the isolation of her bedroom for most of the novella.
The rape occurs on the 4th of July. A symbol of American independence. This book shows that independence can be abused both legally and illegally.
What happens after the rape is a scenario Americans are familiar with and witnessed in the O.J. and Kennedy-Smith cases. The sham trial begins with the rapists appearing to be clean cut, boy next door types in court. Then the brilliant defense attorney destroys the prosecution with a little help from the judge. Teena Maguire is raped a second time by the judicial system.
The dark forces that have conspired against Teena Maguire are responded to by a few in the community outraged by what has happened. Leading this effort is a cop named Dromoor. He is not interested in the law, but he is interested in justice.
This is not a comfortable novel. It will make you cringe. It is told from different points of views that can be both illuminating and confusing. The use of the second person voice was effective.
Oates is at her chilling best in this book. I could not put it down.
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