By the prolific, acclaimed author and university professor Joyce Carol Oates, Carthage (2014), is a mystery that teaches the reader to look beyond simple explanations, the obvious, to what is hidden from view. It unravels the story of traumatized Iraq war veteran Brett Kincaid, who returns home haunted by his experiences in the Middle East, his senses dulled by meds. The younger sister of Juliet Mayfield, his fiance, disappears in the nearby Adirondack mountains, and the evidence points to him.
Fast forward seven years, and younger sister Cressida Mayfield has turned up in Florida as Sabbath Mae McSwain. Another swing back in time to New York reveals how Cressida became involved with Brett, and how the estranged daughter of a former mayor transformed herself and disappeared. The tale is dark and complex, and should be hard to put down.
Dan Chaon opened with these words in The Washington Post Book World:
“Joyce Carol Oates’s brilliant, weirdly structured new novel presents some problems for a reviewer who wants to persuade people to read it. First, the book contains some blow-the-top-of-your-head-off twists that would be immoral and unfair to reveal. Second, and more problematically, the somewhat-slow first hundred pages give no hint of just how surprising and amazing the novel is going to be.”