New Fiction: A Book of American Martyrs – Joyce Carol Oates

As I sat in a Delta gate area today watching coverage of the Women’s March and marches all over the country just a day after an Inauguration that made some on the Right literally shed tears of joy, I realized that Ms. Oates is once again publishing into the zeitgeist with this major new novel. Editor Daniel Halpern calls A Book of American Martyrs “a powerful, timely, and important story of wide-ranging scope…. At a moment when our country is painfully reckoning with the consequences of violence and hatred, this nuanced, insightful portrait feels necessary and urgent.”

It’s the story of two men—an abortion provider and the man who kills him. It’s also the story of their families and by extension of a divided America and its legacy of violence.

Booklist gives it a starred review. The book is already scheduled for coverage on NPR’s All Things Considered and we expect major review attention.

“Oates often channels the inner voices of psychopaths, with morbid fascination modulating into empathy. In this robust, relentless, inquisitive, and astutely balanced novel of social conflict, Oates portrays with unfailing nuance two troubled men on the opposite sides of the ever-fraught abortion-rights debate after roofer Luther Dunphy murders Dr. Gus Voorhees outside a women’s clinic in a small Ohio town in 1999. With searing specificity, Oates unspools Luther’s grim backstory and illuminates Gus’ complicated choice to put conviction and work before family and personal safety….But Oates also ventures into the dark consequences of sexism and the horrors of capital punishment as she follows the lives of the bereft Dunphy and Voorhees families over the years, ultimately homing in on two daughters coping with anguish …. [Oates] dramatizes the complex motivations and meanings of martyrdom both sought and unintentional, while seeking understanding and sympathy for all.”
Booklist (starred review)

In this chilling novel, bestselling author Oates approaches one of America’s enduringly divisive topics through the lens of a sprawling family epic…[Her] sprawling tale presents a sensitively painted portrait of the inextricable quality of grief and the weight of family legacy, showing how unexpected connections can bind people together in counterintuitive ways.”
Publishers Weekly

“I’ll be honest: in all my years of selling books, I had never read anything by Joyce Carol Oates.  As I sit here in my sublime book-hangover, I can’t believe I waited this long to find my way to reading what Oates has given to the literary world. I’m not sure I can write a review worthy enough to express how this raw and striking tale of two families is told. An exquisite portrait of one most provocative topics of our time told with unexpected and deep intimacy.”
— Shannon Alden, Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor, MI

A Book of American Martyrs (9780062643049) by Joyce Carol Oates. $29.99 hardcover. 2/7/17 on sale.


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