Black Water by Joyce Carol Oates is my latest read! I have been an avid fan of Joyce Carol Oates and her writing since I was in high school, reading many of her novels several times over the years.
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I have read Black Water twice before, but felt compelled to sit down and read it again since it has been quite a few years since I had picked this one up. I must admit that I wasn’t disappointed!
Have you read Black Water from Joyce Carol Oates? Come and let me tell you about it!
About Black Water
Joyce Carol Oates has taken a shocking story that has become an American myth and, from it, has created a novel of electrifying power and illumination. Kelly Kelleher is an idealistic, twenty-six-year-old “good girl” when she meets the Senator at a Fourth of July party.
In a brilliantly woven narrative, we enter her past and her present, her mind and her body as she is fatally attracted to the older man, this hero, this soon-to-be lover. Kelly becomes the very embodiment of the vulnerable, romantic dreams of bright and brave women, drawn to the power that certain men command- at a party that takes on the quality of a surreal nightmare; in a tragic car ride that we hope against hope will not end as we know it must end.
One of the acknowledged masters of American fiction, Joyce Carol Oates has written a bold tour de force that parts the black water to reveal the profoundest depths of human truth.
Thoughts on Black Water
One of the things that I’ve always admired about Joyce Carol Oates is her ability to take a situation and turn it into something people can relate to. In this case, she took inspiration from an automobile accident where Senator Ted Kennedy was driving and his passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne lost her life on Chappaquiddick Island in July, 1969 due to drowning.
But this isn’t a true crime story. It is simply inspired by this specific event. It is told from the perspective of the woman drowning, and focuses on the moments right before her death, and everything that is going through her mind. Far too often when stories are inspired by an actual event, they are based on the villain and not the victim. That isn’t the case here, and I find that refreshing.
Black Water is a short story, being a whopping 154 pages. It is easy to read in one sitting. In fact, I would recommend reading it in one sitting because not only is it short, it is a fast-paced read with so much going on.
This book is written with mere moments left in Kelly Kelleher’s life as she is dying, and the things that are going through her mind. These thoughts span her life, both past and present, as we are inevitably waiting for her death, but still hoping she manages to escape the car.
I found myself rooting for her to escape and hoping she did. The odds were stacked against her, I knew this. But I still found myself wanting a miracle within this book.
It is somewhat rare that a book will have me on the edge of my seat and hoping for a different outcome as the story goes along. But Joyce Carol Oates has managed to do just that within the pages of Black Water.
Final Thoughts on Black Water
I recommend Black Water for several reasons. The first is that it is a short story and is fast paced. I read this book in just a couple of hours, sitting down for the entire thing.
This is perfect for someone who has trouble sitting still or focusing on longer novels. It kept me sitting still because it was captivating. But it wasn’t so long that I had time to start fidgeting or stop and forget to pick it up again.
Joyce Carol Oates has a way of writing some of the most relatable characters in her stories. She often focuses on short stories. If you are a writer or interested in writing, I highly recommend her novels and taking classes from her. From an aspiring author’s perspective, so many of her novels, including Black Water, are pure gold to learn from.
Have you read Black Water by Joyce Carol Oates? Are you a fan of her writing? Tell me about it in the comments!
About the Author
Joyce Carol Oates is the author of more than 70 books, including novels, short story collections, poetry volumes, plays, essays, and criticism, including the national bestsellers We Were the Mulvaneys and Blonde. Among her many honors are the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction and the National Book Award.
Oates is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University, and has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978.
Purchasing Black Water
If you are interested in buying the paperback version of Black Water, click here.
Click here for the Kindle version.
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More from Joyce Carol Oates
Did you enjoy the review of Black Water? Need another Joyce Carol Oates book to read? Here are some of my favorites!
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I normally don’t read crime / mystery stories — but from how you explained the premise, I have a feeling that this is well-told and creative! Would love to give this a read.
I love reading books. I admire anyone who has a different take on a story. This book looks like it is well written and documented and to write about their before-death experience is mind-blowing. Thanks for this review.
I have never heard of Black Water before this, but it sounds like a great read that I’m going to have to get my hands on! I love when an author can capture a whole story in a shorter book – it makes it perfect for when I want to bring something for a weekend away. I have tried enjoying longer books while camping, however, too often they are then set aside when I get back to ‘normal life’ again lol This sounds like a great option for an afternoon curled up in the hammock… I’m going to have to make sure that I get my hands on it before we start camping again this season!
I love these short stories, the ones that are gripping and which you don’t feel like putting down till you finish. What little that I read here about the book is certainly one I would love to read. What plays in someones mind when they are near death and do not know whether they would survive sounds interesting.