My first encounter with Joyce Carol Oates' work has been rather disturbing, since this novella is not something one would truly enjoy reading. As its provocative title suggests, it is about a rape and its effects on the people involved. Still, how can love find its place amidst all that?
The novella brutally starts with: “After she was gang-raped, kicked and beaten and left to die on the floor of the filthy boathouse at Rocky Point Park. After she was dragged into the boathouse by the five drunken guys – unless there were six, or seven – and her twelve-year-old daughter screaming Let us go! Don’t hurt us! Please don’t hurt us! After she had been chased by the guys like a pack of dogs jumping their prey, turning her ankle, losing both her high-heeled sandals on the path beside the lagoon" and we hardly find any time to breathe between pages, bound to go through the ordeals and struggles that the mother and daughter have to face. Teena Maguire together with her 12 year old Bethie chose the shorter way home, on the night of 4th of July, and being the victim of a gang rape, she is now left to regret that she has survived.
The dreadful trial, the shame and the blame that the community casts over them leave the two in the impossibility to move forward, until someone decides to take matters into his own hands. Out of love for Teena and to see justice being done. The book finally takes a positive turn when we see the two characters being avenged. Somehow.
Could things have been different? Was it their destiny? Bethie tries to find an answer:
“There was a final shake of the dice. Another time it might have been averted. When Casey said, ‘Teena, let me drive you two home. Wait a minute, I’ll get the car,’ and your mother thanked him and kissed him on the cheek, telling him not to bother – ‘We want to walk, don’t we, Bethie? It’s a perfect night.’”
It was not a perfect night, but there is hope at the end of the last page.
Read for: Orange in January Challenge and New Authors Challenge