A gripping and moving new collection of stories by Joyce Carol Oates, which reimagines the meaning of family—by unexpected, often startling means.

Author: Joyce Carol Oates
Publisher: Ecco
Year: 2009
Pages: 336

With the unflinching candor and sympathy for which Joyce Carol Oates is celebrated, these fourteen stories examine the intimate lives of contemporary American families: the tangled ties between generations, the desperation—and the covert, radiant happiness—of loving more than one is loved in return. In “Cutty Sark” and “Landfill,” the bond between adolescent son and mother reverberates with the force of an unspoken passion, bringing unexpected consequences for the son. In “A Princeton Idyll,” a woman is forced to realize, decades later, her childhood role in the destruction of a famous, beloved grandfather’s life. In “Magda Maria,” a man tries to break free of the enthralling and dangerous erotic obsession of his life. In the gripping title story, Oates boldly reimagines the true-crime story of Andrea Yates, the Texas mother who drowned her children in 2001. Several stories—”Suicide by Fitness Center,” “The Glazers,” and “Dear Joyce Carol,”—take a less tragic turn, exploring with mordant humor the shadowy interstices between self-awareness and delusion.

Dramatic, intensely rendered, and always provocative, Dear Husband, provides an unsettling and fascinating look into the mysterious heart of America.



  • Panic
  • Special
  • The Blind Man’s Sighted Daughters
  • Magda Maria
  • A Princeton Idyll
  • Cutty Sark
  • Landfill
  • Vigilante
  • The Heart Sutra


  • Dear Joyce Carol,
  • Suicide by Fitness Center
  • The Glazers
  • Mistrial
  • Dear Husband,

Book Covers


  • Best American Mystery Stories, 2009: “Dear Husband,”
  • Best American Mystery Stories, 2008: “The Blind Man’s Sighted Daughters”
  • The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, 2007: “Landfill”


Michael Lindgren, Washington Post, July 8, 2009
5 stars
“At least one of these stories (“Landfill”) can break your heart, and several of the others, astonishingly, are among the best things she’s ever done. Oates’s naysayers, who are legion, will someday come to accept that we are witnessing the steady unfolding of one of the towering careers in American letters.”

Publishers Weekly, October 13, 2008, p. 33
4 stars

Josh Cohen, Library Journal, December 1, 2008, p. 122
4 stars

Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2009
4 stars
“… the onrushing prose and stabbing emotional intensity that are Oates’ greatest strengths imbue the volume with compulsive readability.”

Heather Paulson. Booklist, February 15, 2009, p. 28
4 stars

Dan Scheraga, Associated Press, March 25, 2009
4 stars

Elaine Margolin, Star-Ledger (Newark, New Jersey), March 27, 2009, Sunday/Ex Libris, p.10
4 stars

Christopher Benfey, New York Times Book Review, April 5, 2009, p.6
4 stars

Robert Braile, Boston Globe, April 8, 2009
4 stars

Karen Brady, Buffalo News, April 19, 2009
4 stars

Caroline Fraser, The New York Review of Books, May 27, 2010
4 stars

Deirdre Donahue, USA Today, April 22, 2009
2 stars

Image: “Blue Skies (are here again)” by Drew Morris



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