Oates, Joyce Carol "Mudwoman" - 2012
Joyce Carol Oates is one of my favourite authors. She surprises me with every new novel. As she did with this one.
Meredith Ruth (M.R.) Neukirchen is an abandoned and then adopted child that grows into a very successful woman. When she is at the top, she starts struggling with her past.
It is amazing how ordinary events can bring up topics you have long forgotten. And it is close to a miracle how Joyce Carol Oates can bring this to life on her pages. An almost fantasy-like story, although more magic realism, a story that has it all, it's a thriller, but it's so much more than a thriller. It's a philosophical book as well as the description of a journey to find oneself.
A quote to think about: "Earth-time is a way of preventing everything happening at once."
From the back cover:
"A riveting novel that explores the high price of success in the life of one woman - the first female president of a lauded ivy league institution - and her hold upon her self-identity in the face of personal and professional demons, from Joyce Carol Oates, author of the New York Times bestseller A Widow’s Story.
Mudgirl is a child abandoned by her mother in the silty flats of the Black Snake River. Cast aside, Mudgirl survives by an accident of fate - or destiny. After her rescue, the well-meaning couple who adopt Mudgirl quarantine her poisonous history behind the barrier of their middle-class values, seemingly sealing it off forever. But the bulwark of the present proves surprisingly vulnerable to the agents of the past.
Meredith 'M.R.' Neukirchen is the first woman president of an Ivy League university. Her commitment to her career and moral fervor for her role are all-consuming. Involved with a secret lover whose feelings for her are teasingly undefined, and concerned with the intensifying crisis of the American political climate as the United States edges toward war with Iraq, M.R. is confronted with challenges to her leadership that test her in ways she could not have anticipated. The fierce idealism and intelligence that delivered her from a more conventional life in her upstate New York hometown now threaten to undo her.
A reckless trip upstate thrusts M.R. Neukirchen into an unexpected psychic collision with Mudgirl and the life M.R. believes she has left behind. A powerful exploration of the enduring claims of the past, Mudwoman is at once a psychic ghost story and an intimate portrait of a woman cracking the glass ceiling at enormous personal cost, which explores the tension between childhood and adulthood, the real and the imagined, and the 'public' and 'private' in the life of a highly complex contemporary woman."
Find links to all my other Joyce Carol Oates reviews here.