TITLE: GIVE ME YOUR HEART: TALES OF MYSTERY & SUSPENSE
AUTHOR: JOYCE CAROL OATES
PUBLISHER: HOUGHTON MIFFLIN HARCOURT
GENRE: SHORT FICTION
COVER TYPE: HARD BACK
BLURB FROM THE COVER
The need for love—obsessive, self-destructive, unpredictable—takes us to forbidden places, as in the chilling world of Give Me Your Heart, a new collection of stories by the inimitable Joyce Carol Oates.
In the suspenseful “Strip Poker,” a reckless adolescent girl must find a way of turning the tables on a gathering of increasingly threatening young men—can she “outplay” them? In the award-winning “Smother!” a young woman’s nightmare memory of childhood brings trouble on her professor-mother—which of them will “win”? In “Split/Brain” a woman who has blundered into a lethal situation confronts the possibility of saving herself—will she take it? In “The First Husband,” a jealous man discovers that his wife seems to have lied about her first marriage, and exacts a cruel revenge, years after the fact. In these and other powerful tales, children veer beyond their parents’ control, wives and husbands wake up to find that they hardly know each other, haunted pasts intrude upon uncertain futures, and those who bring us the most harm may be the nearest at hand.
In ten razor-sharp stories, National Book Award winner Joyce Carol Oates shows that the most deadly mysteries often begin at home…
Give Me Your Heart: Tales of Mystery & Suspense is a strong collection of stories. It’s Oates’s best collection in recent years. I liked every story. Every story in the collection was strong.
GIVE ME YOUR HEART: A woman writes to an old lover. She was a young student when her much old professor seduced her. The letter is full of anger, bitterness and resentment. She believes her lover owes her for what he put her through. She wants to cut out his heart. I thought this was a powerful story.
SPLIT / BRAIN: A woman goes home from work and discovers her troubled nephew, is hiding out in her house. He’s high on drugs and wishes her harm. He threatens her with a knife. The story goes off into two directions – the woman is stabbed to death by her nephew and manages to fend him off. I like the unusual structure of this story and the unresolved ending.
THE FIRST HUSBAND: A man finds photographs of his young wife’s first husband hidden among her belongings. He becomes jealous to the point of obsession. He tracks him down and murders him. I hated the ending of this story. It was an obvious cliché. It would have been better if he’d just tracked him down. The murder was a step too far.
STRIP POKER: A young teenage girl on a family holiday goes off with a group of older boys. They have fun at first in a house in the middle of nowhere. The events become more and more threatening as they play strip poker. The girl saves herself from their hostile intentions by telling them a story about her father killing someone who tried to assault her. I thought this was a great story and I liked the way the girl turned the tables.
SMOTHER: A young woman starts to have what appear to be flashbacks of an unsolved murder of a baby girl in her neighbourhood when she was a child. The woman contacts the police and claims the baby girl was her sister and she witnessed her parents, respected academics murder her. The police visit her parents. I liked the story but found the ending unsatisfactory. Nothing is resolved.
TETANUS: A social worker is called to the local police station to interview an eleven-year-old boy. The boy’s mother has alleged he threatened her and his baby brother with a knife. The boy is trouble and known for his violence and aggression. The social worker tries to reason with the boy but fails. The boy attacks him and sinks his teeth in his arm. The social worker needs to get a tetanus. I thought this was a very powerful story.
THE SPILL: A young woman finds life difficult taking care of her young children and her much older lover. When her husband’s mentally retarded nephew comes to live with them the strain pushes her to breaking point. She takes drastic action and lures her nephew to a sheer drop in the middle of nowhere and pushes him to his death. I found this story unpleasant because the poor boy’s death wasn’t necessary.
NOWHERE: A woman struggles to cope with life after her father is sent to prison for violently physically assaulting someone. She has flashes of her own memories and her history of being physically abused. She visits him in prison because she wants to understand his actions but gets nowhere. I thought this was a powerful but incredibly sad story.
BLEEED: A young boy is constantly at war with his parents. They don’t approve of his friends and whenever they hear of local trouble they suspect his friends and ask him accusing questions. The boy is driving home when he stumbles across a young girl who appears to have been raped because she’s bleeding from between the legs. She’s bleeding from other wounds. The girl attacks him and her murders her. The police catch him as he flees the scene. I also felt this ending was pointless and a step too far. Would the boy really have murdered someone who had clearly been assaulted in some way?
VENA CAVA: A young solider is horrifically injured while fighting in Iraq. He’s left in a coma and when he wakes up he’s bed-ridden. He feels like a prisoner inside his own body. He has flashes where he thinks he’s someone else. He feels disconnected from everyone around him. He commits suicide at the end of the story with his father’s shotgun. I found this story heart-breaking.
THE OPENING LINE
Dear Dr K -, It’s been a long time, hasn’t it!
GIVE ME YOUR HEART
I wasn’t completely happy with the ending of a couple of stories. However, this didn’t detract from the fact all of the stories very strong and I enjoyed reading this. This is a good collection though not her best.