By Joyce Carol Oates

New York: Mysterious Press, 2022
528 Pages

book coverA collection of twenty-four disturbing tales of crime and suspense from literary icon Joyce Carol Oates, “America’s preeminent fiction writer” (The New Yorker).

Two hitmen in a depressed rust belt town struggle with a job gone wrong. A girl witnesses a horrifying accident and carries it with her for the rest of her life. Medical students bring a severed foot to a college party. Five-time Pulitzer Prize finalist Joyce Carol Oates has made a career of exploring the forbidden corners of human experience, and the stories collected here, spanning her first three decades as a writer, are among her most unsettling and unforgettable works to date.

Originally published in long out-of-print volumes, these tales have not appeared in any form this century—until now. Formally fresh and endlessly experimental, they show a writer boldly engaging with disturbing truths and terrifying possibilities, and deconstructing the tropes and expectations of traditional prose writing as she does so. But beyond their stylistic ingenuity, these are creepy, suspenseful stories that cut straight to the bone; their darkness will linger long after the final page is turned.

A must-read for long-time fans of Joyce Carol Oates and an excellent introduction for the uninitiated, the twenty-four tales included in Extenuating Circumstances exemplify the author’s idiosyncratic spookiness: “visceral, psychologically involving, and socially astute” (Booklist).

table of contentsContents

  • The Death of Mrs. Sheer information
  • In the Warehouse information
  • By the River information
  • Queen of the Night information
  • The Revenge of the Foot, 1970 information
  • The Doll information
  • Little Wife information
  • Yarrow information
  • Haunted information
  • Death Valley information
  • Craps information
  • Family information
  • Ladies and Gentlemen: information
  • Why Don’t You Come Live With Me, It’s Time information
  • The Buck information
  • The Model information
  • Extenuating Circumstances information
  • The Girl Who Was to Die information
  • Poor Bibi information
  • The Undesirable Table information
  • The Hand-Puppet information
  • Valentine information
  • The Collector of Hearts information
  • The Sons of Angus MacElster information

Book Covers


reviews, starts, 5Reviews

Publishers Weekly, April 25, 2022
5 stars
Oates typically leads her readers to focus on one plot element, while subtly rearranging the emotional landscape, leaving them in exhilaratingly uncharted territory. Spanning the first 30 years of Oates’s writing career, these stories aren’t for the faint of heart, but they’re a joy for anyone who appreciates the work of a master storyteller.

Ray Palen, Bookreporter, July 22, 2022
4 stars
Joyce Carol Oates is an American institution. These stories have a little of everything and do such a fine job representing her style of writing, which can be best described as surprising, unsettling, disturbing, unique and never predictable.

Richard Cytowic, New York Journal of Books
4 stars

Joyce Carol Oates’ tales are unsettling, disquieting, some endings left hanging, leaving readers not answers but questions that implicate more horror yet to come to the normal-seeming characters who inhabit them …

haunted2Image: Scott Sanford — “Haunted, obviously…”

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