From one of the most important contemporary American writers, Cardiff, by the Sea is a bold, haunting collection of four previously unpublished novellas.
In the titular novella, an academic in Pennsylvania discovers a terrifying trauma from her past after inheriting a house in Cardiff, Maine from someone she has never heard of. Mia, the protagonist of “Miao Dao,” is a pubescent girl overcome with loneliness, who befriends a feral cat that becomes her protector from the increasingly aggressive males that surround her.
A brilliant but shy college sophomore realizes that she is pregnant in “Phantomwise: 1972.” Distraught, she allows a distinguished visiting professor to take her under his wing, though it quickly becomes evident that he is interested in more than an academic mentorship. Lastly, “The Surviving Child” is Stefan, who was spared when his mother, a famous poet, killed his sister and herself. Stefan’s father remarries, but his young wife is haunted by dead poet’s voice dancing in the wind, an inexplicably befouled well, and a compulsive draw to the same gar-age that took two lives.
In these psychologically daring, chillingly suspenseful pieces, Joyce Carol Oates writes about women facing threats past and present.
In the dark, smelly place beneath the sinkCARDIFF, BY THE SEA
(@MysteriousPress, 6 October 2020, 288 pages, e-book, #ARC from the publisher via #NetGalley and voluntarily reviewed)
This is an impressive collection of novellas from JCO, one of my favourite writers. I’ve already read Miao Dao as part of the Dark Corners collection from Amazon Original Stories. This is a dark and unnerving tale and I would have preferred some new material. The other three novellas, Cardiff, by the Sea, Phantomwise: 1972 and The Surviving Child are excellent. They all have JCO’s trademarks; fantastic characters and unflinching ability to take some pretty grim subject matter at just the right level and tone. The title novella is my favourite, a young woman who was adopted discovers she’s inherited property in her late paternal grandmother’s will and discovers dark skeletons in her closet. Phantomwise: 1972 is also excellent; the end of this sad and dark tale is heart-breaking. The same can be said for The Surviving Child. This would have been a 5-star book if not for the inclusion of Miao Dao, old material.