A novel of tremendous sweep and pace about the American family in crisis – but also about America itself in the mid-20th century. This novel is the crowning achievement of Joyce Carol Oates's career to date.
A man climbs over the railings and plunges into Niagara Falls. He's a newlywed, and his bride has been left behind in the honeymoon suite the morning after their wedding. For two weeks Alma, the deserted bride, waits by the side of the roaring waterfall for news of her husband's recovered body. During her vigil, an unlikely new love story begins to unfold when she meets a wealthy lawyer who is transfixed by her strange, otherworldly gaze. So it all begins, in the 1950s, with the dark foreboding of the Falls the sinister background to events.
From this cataclysmic event unfurls a drama of parents and their children; of secrets and sins; of lawsuits, murder and, eventually redemption. As Alma's children learn that their past is enmeshed with a hushed-up scandal involving radioactive waste materials, they must confront not only their personal history but America's murky past: the despoiling of the American landscape and the corruption and greed of the massive industrial expansion of the 1950s and 1960s.
This novel of tremendous sweep and pace is about the American family in crisis – but also about America itself in the mid-20th century. This book alone places Joyce Carol Oates definitively in the company of the Great American Novelists.