Cover image for The sacrifice
Title:
The sacrifice
Author:
Oates, Joyce Carol, 1938- , author.
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York, NY : Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, [2015]
Physical Description:
309 pages ; 24 cm
Summary:
When a fourteen-year-old girl is the alleged victim of a terrible act of racial violence, the incident shocks and galvanizes her community, exacerbating the racial tension that has been simmering in this New Jersey town for decades.
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780062332974
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

New York Times bestselling author Joyce Carol Oates returns with an incendiary novel that illuminates the tragic impact of sexual violence, racism, brutality, and power on innocent lives and probes the persistence of stereotypes, the nature of revenge, the complexities of truth, and our insatiable hunger for sensationalism.

When a fourteen-year-old girl is the alleged victim of a terrible act of racial violence, the incident shocks and galvanizes her community, exacerbating the racial tension that has been simmering in this New Jersey town for decades. In this magisterial work of fiction, Joyce Carol Oates explores the uneasy fault lines in a racially troubled society. In such a tense, charged atmosphere, Oates reveals that there must always be a sacrifice--of innocence, truth, trust, and, ultimately, of lives. Unfolding in a succession of multiracial voices, in a community transfixed by this alleged crime and the spectacle unfolding around it, this profound novel exposes what--and who--the "sacrifice" actually is, and what consequences these kind of events hold for us all.

Working at the height of her powers, Oates offers a sympathetic portrait of the young girl and her mother, and challenges our expectations and beliefs about our society, our biases, and ourselves. As the chorus of its voices--from the police to the media to the victim and her family--reaches a crescendo, The Sacrifice offers a shocking new understanding of power and oppression, innocence and guilt, truth and sensationalism, justice and retribution.

A chilling exploration of complex social, political, and moral themes--the enduring trauma of the past, modern racial and class tensions, the power of secrets, and the primal decisions we all make to protect those we love--The Sacrifice is a major work of fiction from one of our most revered literary masters.


Author Notes

Joyce Carol Oates was born on June 16, 1938 in Lockport, New York. She received a bachelor's degree in English from Syracuse University and a master's degree in English from the University of Wisconsin.

She is the author of numerous novels and collections of short stories. Her works include We Were the Mulvaneys, Blonde, Bellefleur, You Must Remember This, Because It Is Bitter, Because It Is My Heart, Solstice, Marya : A Life, and Give Me Your Heart. She has received numerous awards including the National Book Award for Them, the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction, and the F. Scott Fitzgerald Award for Lifetime Achievement in American Literature. She was a finalist for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction with her title Lovely, Dark, Deep. She also wrote a series of suspense novels under the pseudonym Rosamond Smith. In 2015, her novel The Accursed became listed as a bestseller on the iBooks chart.

She worked as a professor of English at the University of Windsor, before becoming the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of Humanities at Princeton University. She and her late husband Raymond J. Smith operated a small press and published a literary magazine, The Ontario Review.

(Bowker Author Biography) Joyce Carol Oates is one of the most eminent and prolific literary figures and social critics of our times. She has won the National Book Award and several O. Henry and Pushcart prizes. Among her other awards are an NEA grant, a Guggenheim fellowship, the PEN/Malamud Lifetime Achievement Award, and the F. Scott Fitzgerald Award for Lifetime Achievement in American Literature.

(Publisher Provided)


Reviews 2

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Everyone remarks on how prolific Oates is, but the real significance of her literary fecundity liesin the power and daring of her novels and short stories and how they provoke and disturb us by tapping into our most elemental fears and desires. Oates is a tireless and explicit explorer of the deep-dark origins of the perpetual battle between female and male, the lust and the terror. Over and over again, Oates dramatizes both random violence against women and the sickening intimacy and betrayal of men's assaults on women who love them. Oates is equally unflinching in her inquiry into class and racial conflicts, and in her imaginative and intrepid variations on actual circumstances and crimes, from the limited choices of disadvantaged women in her Detroit-set National Book Award-winning them (1969) to Marilyn Monroe's disastrous celebrity in Blonde (2000) to a tale of the opposite lives of two college students in Black Girl/White Girl (2006) to the JonBenet Ramsey case and the horrors of the tabloid press in My Sister, My Love (2008) to the festering wound of a long-ago New Jersey lynching in The Accursed (2013). All of Oates' key themes and strategies converge in her newest taut and unnerving novel. The Sacrifice is set in 1987 in a poor African American neighborhood in a racially dividedNew Jersey city, where Ednetta, as distraught and wailing as a character in a Greek tragedy, is haunting the streets, asking everyone she comes across if they've seen her 14-year-old daughter, Sybilla (which means prophetess or oracle). We quickly learn that Ednetta dropped out of high school when she had her first child at 16 and that she has been living with a notoriously volatile and unfaithful man, Anis, who did time for murdering his wife. Sybilla is soon found by Ada, a courageous substitute teacher who ventures into the foul basement of a long-abandoned riverside factory when she hears a faint cry. The girl, whom Ada remembers as sassy and impudent, is on the floor, tied up and smeared with feces. She has been beaten, and her face is swollen. Racial slurs have been scrawled on her torso. Many readers will recognize this as a variation on the still controversial 1987 Tawana Brawley case, in which a New York State teen found in a similar condition claimed to have been raped and abused by white men, including a police officer and prosecutor. Accordingly, Sybilla insists that white cops abducted and raped her. And just as Brawley drew the very public support of Reverend Al Sharpton, Sybilla is championed by the meticulously tailored and coiffed firebrand, Reverend Marcus Mudrick, who woos the traumatized mother and daughter with roses and limousines as he turns Sybilla's alleged attack into a cause célèbre and money magnet. Using Brawley's complexly distressing story as an armature, Oates builds her own gripping tale of how the horrific legacy of slavery has poisoned family relationships and fueled police brutality against African Americans. Ednetta and Sybilla are vividly complex and affecting characters, but it is Oates' compassionate portrait of Anis that most searingly illuminates the consequences of this tragic inheritance. He is tormented by grief and rage over his brother's death at the hands of the police, anguish that drives him to terrorize those closest to him. Oates is equally insightful in her characterization of individuals who seek to exploit the suffering of others, distorting and denying the truth for their own aggrandizement and profit, as well as those who enable them by forsaking common sense in their salacious credulity. Readers may find this boldly incendiary and propulsive novel vexing, even offensive. And Oates fully intends to make readers squirm. We do urgently need to face our unexamined assumptions and prejudices. But for all its headline brashness, visceral magnification, and societal melodrama, The Sacrifice is laced with striking psychological subtleties, painful ironies, and flashes of tenderness and wit. A sure-fire catalyst for meaningful discussion. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Courting controversy, Oates' explosive novel will arrive on the high wave of a national promotional campaign and author appearances.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2014 Booklist


Publisher's Weekly Review

In this disjointed tale of race, community, and pride, a teenage black girl named Sybilla Frye is raped and left for dead in the basement of an abandoned New Jersey factory. Inspired by the 1988 Tawana Brawley case, this supposed whodunit becomes clouded by race and politics after Sybilla accuses white police officers of the crime. Her mother, Ednetta Frye, refuses to cooperate with police as outrage boils over in their community of Red Rock, part of the fictional city of Pascayne, N.J. After the spotlight-seeking Rev. Marus Mudrick starts the "Crusade for Justice for Sybilla Frye," the crime devolves into a nationwide spectacle. Pascayne begins to splinter, and once-certain facts turn to doubts and intrigue until the true reason for the attack becomes clear. New Jersey has been familiar territory for Oates, most recently in her gothic novel The Accursed. In The Sacrifice, however, each chapter jumps to a new, unpredictable perspective, making the story fragmented and often repetitive. Oates's heavy and overt focus on race leaves little room for nuance, despite the complex and multifaceted events of her book. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.