BOOK REVIEW: DADDY LOVE BY JOYCE CAROL OATES

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GENERAL INFORMATION

TITLE: DADDY LOVE

AUTHOR: JOYCE CAROL OATES

PAGES: 279

PUBLISHER: MYSTERIOUS PRESS BOOKS

YEAR: 2013

GENRE: CRIME FICTION

COVER TYPE: HARD BACK

www.amazon.co.uk/Daddy-Love-Joyce-Carol-Oates/dp/1781850658

www.usfca.edu/jco

Oates is one of my favourite writers. She shares a pedestal with Stephen King. I adore her. I’d stalk her and everything. When I saw Daddy Love sitting on the shelf in my library I just had to pick it up.

BLURB FROM THE COVER 

Dinah Whitcomb has everything: a loving husband and a smart young son named Robbie. Then one day their world is shattered when Robbie is abducted from a parking lot and Dinah is run over by the kidnapper’s van, mangling her body nearly beyond repair. The kidnapper, a reverend named Chester Cash, aka Daddy Love, has for years abducted, tortured, and raped young boys. Daddy Love renames Robbie as ‘Gideon,’ brainwashing him into believing that he is Daddy Love’s real son, and any time the boy resists or rebels he is met with punishment beyond his wildest nightmares. 

As Robbie grows older he becomes more aware of just how monstrous Daddy Love truly is. Once terrified of what would happen if he disobeyed Daddy Love, he begins to realize that the longer he is locked in the shackles of this demon, the greater chance he’ll end up like Daddy Love’s other ‘sons’ who were never heard from again. Somewhere within this tortured boy lies a spark of rebellion . . . and soon he will see just what lengths he must go to in order to have any chance at survival.   

EXTRACT 

Take my hand, she said. 

OVERALL IMPRESSION 

I thought Daddy Love was brilliant. Oates is on top form here. I was in tears by the end of chapter five so knew Daddy Love was going to be great. I read it in one sitting, scrunched up in the corner of the couch with the book balanced on my knees. The real world vanished. Oates grabbed me by the throat and dragged me into the dark heart of Daddy Love.

REVIEW 

I loved the title. Daddy Love is the nickname Robbie’s kidnapper gives himself. It is the name Robbie uses in secret for the six years he shares a bed with the creepy preacher who snatched him from his mother’s arms.

Daddy Loves opens brilliantly. Robbie’s kidnapped is told across three short, jaw-dropping chapters. Oates builds tension until I almost couldn’t stand it. Dinah is hit in the head with a blunt object and knocked to the ground. Her son is snatched from her arms and bundled into a van. She runs after the van screaming and the driver runs her down, breaking both her legs and disfiguring her for life. Who wouldn’t want to read on after that?

The characterisation is fantastic in Daddy Love. With Dinah, Oates offers an all-too-believable portrait of a mother’s terror and grief. My heart went out to her. She never gives up hope that her son is alive and will come back to her even after six years. Her pain leaps off the page. Her husband plays a minor role but Oates goes a great job of making him real. With Daddy Love / Chet Cash, Oates manages to create the most chilling villain I’ve read in a long time.

There are some brilliant scenes in Daddy Love. Daddy keeps Robbie (renamed Gideon) prisoner in a wooden coffin for long periods of time. The boy soils himself. The boy is punished. Years pass and Robbie has learned his lessons well. Daddy Love adopts a pup called Millie from the local animal shelter. The dog is also ‘punished’. In a heart-breaking scene the dog is shot for barking and showing disobedience and Robbie is forced to dig her grave and bury her. Daddy Love finds a new ‘son’ and Robbie knows he won’t be around for long. In one of the best scenes, Daddy Love tries to make Robbie dig his own grave. Robbie belt Daddy Love over the head with the shovel and makes a run for it. At this point I was almost jumping up and down and yelling ‘run Robbie, run like the fucking wind’.

Daddy Love deals with some very dark subject matter. Oates manages not to make the novel gory or off-putting. Daddy Love sexually molests Robbie. Oates manages to write about this without being explicit. She’s very subtle. In the hands of a lesser writer this could have been a mess. Oates is an expert at handling taboo, dark and disturbing subjects.

Daddy Love ends on a happy note but Oates manages not to make it too happy. Robbie is reunited with his parents. Daddy Love is arrested and put on trial for Robbie’s kidnapping, the kidnapping of another boy and the murder of three other ‘son’s’. Oates manages to make the happy ending realistic but not saccharin sweet. I hate happy ending’s that are nauseating and insipid. Oates avoids with expert skill.

FINAL THOUGHTS 

Daddy Love was brilliant. I was hooked from the first page. Oates is a great writer. In Daddy Love, Oates writes about something tackled numerous times in fiction and manages to put a fresh spin on it. Daddy Love is the mark of a great, talented writer. Oates is in her seventies and puts so many writers to shame because she’s that good.

RATING

5 STAR

 

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