A Novel by Joyce Carol Oates

book cover
Author: Joyce Carol Oates
Publisher: Ecco Press
Year: 2020
Pages: 789

The bonds of family are tested in the wake of a profound tragedy, providing a look at the darker side of our society.

Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars. is a gripping examination of contemporary America through the prism of a family tragedy: when a powerful parent dies, each of his adult children reacts in startling and unexpected ways, and his grieving widow in the most surprising way of all.

Stark and penetrating, Joyce Carol Oates’s latest novel is a vivid exploration of race, psychological trauma, class warfare, grief, and eventual healing, as well as an intimate family novel in the tradition of the author’s bestselling We Were the Mulvaneys.


A Clear Midnight

This is thy hour, O Soul, thy free flight into the wordless,
Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson done,
Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering the themes thou 
lovest best.
Night, sleep, death and the stars.

—Walt Whitman


October 18, 2010

October 2010

  • Wind Chimes
  • Lightning-Struck
  • The Cruel Sister
  • Still Alive
  • The Handclasp
  • The Vigil
  • “Heir”
  • The Seed
  • “Evidence”
  • The Swimmer
  • The Party
  • Mutant
  • The Return of Whitey
  • The Blessing Stopped
  • The Steady Hand
  • Going Home

October 2010–April 2011

  • “What Did You Do with Daddy?”
  • The Strong One
  • Taser
  • The Beneficiary
  • The Widow’s Orgy
  • The Shaking Hand
  • Sleepwalker

April 2011–June 2011

  • Mack the Knife
  • The Teasing
  • The Anger
  • The Wave
  • Demon Rakshasa
  • Recurring Dreams of the McClaren Children
  • May Heat
  • Visions at Duchtown
  • Keziahaya
  • Untitled: Widow
  • Dear Hugo

June 2011–December 2011

  • Enemies
  • The Dice
  • Dear Hugo
  • The Hornets
  • Black Rush
  • The Handshake
  • The Braid
  • Warning
  • The Murderous Heart
  • The Last Will & Testament of Virgil McClaren
  • Justice
  • The Kiss
  • Gone
  • Thanksgiving 2011
  • Wind Chimes

January 2012

Book Covers


Publishers Weekly, February 2020
4 stars
Oates’s quintessential examination of grief … draws on the closing lines of Walt Whitman’s “A Clear Midnight,” which reverberate and reappear throughout this weighty chronicle of a family’s reckoning with the death of a father and husband. … With precise, authoritative prose that reads like an inquest written by a poet (“death makes of all that is familiar, unfamiliar”), Oates keep the reader engaged throughout the sprawling narrative. This is a significant and admirable entry in the Oates canon.

Lauren Gilbert, Library Journal, March 2020
4 stars
A poetic meditation on psychological trauma and a complex and nuanced portrait of a grieving family.

Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2020
4 stars
Oates’ storyline would be the stuff of comedy in other hands—think of the recent movie Knives Out, for instance—but she makes of it a brooding, thoughtful study of how people respond to stress and loss, which is not always well and not always nicely. Yet, somehow, everyone endures, some experience unexpected happiness, and the story ends on a note that finds hope amid sorrow and division. Long and diffuse, but, as with all Oates, well worth reading.

Carol Haggas, Booklist, April 15, 2020
4 stars
While Oates purposefully plumbs the depths of each family member’s agonizing loss, her perceptive study of Jessalyn’s widowhood stands out as an impressive and impassioned portrait of this distressing life journey.

night-sleep2Image: Hubblesite: Wide-Field Image of the Eagle Nebula


  1. thanks, Randy! this looks wonderful.

    I hope that I will catch a glimpse of you when I am in Berkeley, March 18 at the Townsend Humanities Center on campus. I think that my talk / interview is at 6 or 7 PM.

    much affection

    Liked by 1 person

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