By Joyce Carol Oates
New York: Ecco, 2021
From a master of the short story, a collection that considers the consequences of the choices we make.
In this stirring, reflective collection of short stories, Joyce Carol Oates ponders alternate destinies, the other lives we might have led if we’d made different choices. An accomplished writer returns to her childhood home of Yewville, but the homecoming stirs troubled thoughts about the person she might have been if she’d never left. A man in prison contemplates the gravity of his irreversible act. A student’s affair with a professor results in a pregnancy that alters the course of her life forever. Even the experience of reading is investigated as one that can create a profound transformation: “You could enter another time, the time of the book.”
The (Other) You is an arresting and incisive vision into these alternative realities, a collection that ponders the constraints we all face given the circumstances of our birth and our temperaments, and that examines the competing pressures and expectations on women in particular. Finely attuned to the nuances of our social and psychic selves, Joyce Carol Oates demonstrates here why she remains one of our most celebrated and relevant literary figures.
- The (Other) You
- The Women Friends
- The Bloody Head
- Where Are You?
- The Crack
- Waiting for Kizer
- Blue Guide
- Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God
- The Happy Place
- Final Interview
- The Unexpected
Helen Schulman, New York Times Book Review, February 28, 2021, page 18.
These are dark stories about dark days, suffused, like most of Oates’s work, with themes of violence, loss and longing. She offers possibility here, too, but only as if to say that while the myriad choices we can make may produce wildly different journeys, none of us, ultimately, is spared.
Publishers Weekly, October 19, 2020, page 41.
Oates returns with a dark, moody collection permeated by themes of obsession, remorse, and violence …. Oates’s mastery of the form remains fierce and formidable in this unsettling collection of lamentations and missed opportunities.
Booklist, December 1, 2020, page 24-25.
In her latest, stirring story collection, Oates portrays characters who acknowledge the seasons, their current predicaments, and their faulty powers of mind as they thread the fractured possibilities of their lives …. In these haunting and timely tales, there are no easy answers for Oates’ characters as they contend with life’s labyrinths and provocations. Crackling with pent-up emotion and deadly devices, a suite of neatly intertwining stories by a masterful storyteller.
Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 2020
Crackling with pent-up emotion and deadly devices, a suite of neatly intertwining stories by a masterful storyteller …. Few short story writers do as much in so few words as the economical, enigmatic Oates.
Eric Karl Anderson, Lonsesomereader.com, February 9, 2021
It’s common for us to question what our lives would have been like if we’d taken a different path at a certain point or if events had unfolded in a different way. It feels like an intrinsic aspect of human nature to imagine what form this alternate self might take. Perhaps the past year of the global pandemic has provoked us to ponder this question even more intensely and reflect on the collective fate of humanity. What would our society look like if the virulent virus hadn’t indelibly changed our lives? Enduring questions such as these expand to more ponderous queries regarding fate and destiny. These are the poignant issues at the heart of Joyce Carol Oates’ new collection of short stories “The (Other) You”.
Alicia Lutes, USA Today, February 11, 2021
In the end, “The (Other) You” is an expertly crafted collection of stories made to bum you out. Thinking about them all the more will only make you gloomier. Oates’ outlook on the world and human nature is not exactly a sunshine-y one, the toxicity of nostalgia for what could have been an ever-present killer. Life is hopeless, just a journey, and “The (Other) You” is meant to remind you of that – if you haven’t had enough of that already.