Short Stories

January 16, 2013
Daddy Love

Daddy Love

Joyce Carol Oates

Mysterious Press, $24/hardcover

The ever-prolific Joyce Carol Oates hits a nerve with Daddy Love, a dark and gritty novel about survival. In some ways evocative of Emma Donoghue's Room, this is a tale of abduction: Robbie, a smart 5-year-old with a nervous temperament, is abducted from a shopping mall parking lot; his mother, Dinah, is seriously injured when the kidnapper drives over her with his getaway van. Oates uses several perspectives — those of the violent, perverted kidnapper Chester Cash who works as a street preacher called "Daddy Love," Robbie and Dinah — to tell the story of the next six years. This book is not for the sensitive reader, but Daddy Love does map out a certain kind of resilience, especially once Robbie comes to realize that he's not the first of Daddy Love's "sons," and that they all seem to disappear not long after they reach his age. — Kel Munger

What's Wrong With Fat?

What's Wrong With Fat?

Abigail C. Saguy

Oxford University Press, $29.95/hardcover

This intelligent analysis of the way our culture views and responds to its own bodies is nothing short of groundbreaking. Abigail C. Saguy, a sociology professor at University of California, Los Angeles, looks at how we talk about fat/obesity/overweight in terms of frames — those familiar tools of organizing language and ideas that have remade U.S. political discourse. In What's Wrong With Fat? Saguy challenges several frames for our understanding of weight: those that treat "overweight" as a problem to be addressed; those that attempt to assign blame for it, whether on industrial agriculture and food production or on lack of self-control; and those that concentrate on attractiveness, an already culturally bound perspective. Saguy is not simply critical of these frames; she brings an uncommon amount of intellectual and common sense to a discussion that is fraught with emotion. — Kel Munger

The Uninvited

The Uninvited

Liz Jensen

Bloomsbury USA, $25/hardcover

This unsettling mystery-thriller has elements of horror as well — not to mention enough apocalyptic overtones to bring on a sleepless night or two. The protagonist of Liz Jensen's The Uninvited is Hesketh Lock, a brilliant fellow with Asperger's syndrome who works as a claims investigator for a British firm. He can't help but look for patterns, and as a lifelong student of human behavior, he has plenty of observations to rely on when he detects something abnormal about some recent, exceptionally bloody violence from very young children. But he's off to Taiwan to look into a case in the country's lumber industry — and what do you know, he finds that some children there are also engaging in suddenly violent acts. Part mystery and part ghost story with a double twist, The Uninvited might make you keep your distance from the playground. — Kel Munger

What's Wrong With Fat? | Abigail C. Saguy | The Uninvited | Liz Jensen | Daddy Love | Joyce Carol Oates

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