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Babysitter

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From one of America's most renowned storytellers comes a novel about love and deceit, and lust and redemption, against a background of child abductions in the affluent suburbs of Detroit. In the waning days of the turbulent 1970s, in the wake of unsolved killings that have shocked Detroit, the lives of several residents are drawn together, with tragic consequences. Ther From one of America's most renowned storytellers comes a novel about love and deceit, and lust and redemption, against a background of child abductions in the affluent suburbs of Detroit. In the waning days of the turbulent 1970s, in the wake of unsolved killings that have shocked Detroit, the lives of several residents are drawn together, with tragic consequences. There is Hannah, wife of a prominent local businessman, who has begun an affair with a darkly charismatic stranger whose identity remains elusive; Mikey, a canny street hustler who finds himself on an unexpected mission to rectify injustice; and the serial killer known as Babysitter, an enigmatic and terrifying figure at the periphery of elite Detroit. As Babysitter continues his rampage of killings, these individuals intersect with one another in startling and unexpected ways. Suspenseful, brilliantly orchestrated and engrossing, Babysitter is a starkly narrated exploration of the riskiness of pursuing alternate lives, calling into question how far we are willing to go to protect those whom we cherish most. In its scathing indictment of corrupt politics, unexamined racism, and the enabling of sexual predation in America, Babysitter is a thrilling work of contemporary fiction.


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From one of America's most renowned storytellers comes a novel about love and deceit, and lust and redemption, against a background of child abductions in the affluent suburbs of Detroit. In the waning days of the turbulent 1970s, in the wake of unsolved killings that have shocked Detroit, the lives of several residents are drawn together, with tragic consequences. Ther From one of America's most renowned storytellers comes a novel about love and deceit, and lust and redemption, against a background of child abductions in the affluent suburbs of Detroit. In the waning days of the turbulent 1970s, in the wake of unsolved killings that have shocked Detroit, the lives of several residents are drawn together, with tragic consequences. There is Hannah, wife of a prominent local businessman, who has begun an affair with a darkly charismatic stranger whose identity remains elusive; Mikey, a canny street hustler who finds himself on an unexpected mission to rectify injustice; and the serial killer known as Babysitter, an enigmatic and terrifying figure at the periphery of elite Detroit. As Babysitter continues his rampage of killings, these individuals intersect with one another in startling and unexpected ways. Suspenseful, brilliantly orchestrated and engrossing, Babysitter is a starkly narrated exploration of the riskiness of pursuing alternate lives, calling into question how far we are willing to go to protect those whom we cherish most. In its scathing indictment of corrupt politics, unexamined racism, and the enabling of sexual predation in America, Babysitter is a thrilling work of contemporary fiction.

30 review for Babysitter

  1. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Prepare to enter room 6183 at the Renaissance Grand Hotel …… (I was on the edge of my seat)…. Hannah was about to meet her lover. A suppressed -unhappy - privileged - wealthy white married female with two children — ‘Hannah Jarrett’ — living in a suburban area in Detroit, Michigan— chooses to engage with a stranger — and have an affair. I couldn’t help but recall the first story in the book ‘Antarctica’, by Claire Keegan — [the story that gave me one of the worse nightmares I ever remember having]— Prepare to enter room 6183 at the Renaissance Grand Hotel …… (I was on the edge of my seat)…. Hannah was about to meet her lover. A suppressed -unhappy - privileged - wealthy white married female with two children — ‘Hannah Jarrett’ — living in a suburban area in Detroit, Michigan— chooses to engage with a stranger — and have an affair. I couldn’t help but recall the first story in the book ‘Antarctica’, by Claire Keegan — [the story that gave me one of the worse nightmares I ever remember having]— only this time my emotions were protective from the familiar disturbing eeriness. I kept an arms distance to the story…. Yet… IT IS CREEPY— and… BABYSITTER…(the character), is based on a real character. In the Detroit area during the 1970’s, — a serial killer was going after boys and girls between the ages of 10 and 14. The title of this book refers to the nanny — but also in the background is the killer-in-the-area -known as ‘Babysitter’. Themes include adultery, pedophilia, childhood abuse, terminal childhood illness, rape, murder, police brutality, hustling, kidnapping,…. and questionable parenting compounded by a hired Filipino nanny. Nothing ‘light’ ….and not a novel for the faint-of-heart. Hannah is an insufferable abominable character — Her choices are ghastly terrifying and dangerous. At times she is self reflective—with regrettable guilt and grief. Yet—she justifies her behavior and is at times illusional. She thinks her own kids are immune from the Babysitter-serial killer because her children are younger than the other children kidnapped and killed. In Hannah’s own words — her inner voice speaking…. she says: “If Babysitter kidnapped my children, it’s what I would deserve”. WOW!!! REALLY CREEPY!!!! ….and all about ‘her’…. Not her children. This was a bleak - but an interesting story. It’s getting -understandably mixed reviews ….. I’m with mixed feelings about this book too. It kept me reading. The 84 year old Joyce Carol Oats — not only is a talented writer — she has written in many varied genres. So at times -it’s hard to ‘peg’ JCO’s — But I love something she wrote recently…. (something JCO’s herself is skilled at) She said: “The content of any literary novel is of less significance than the language in which the novel is told”. Well… be warned — the content is dark and disturbing… But the ‘language’ from which it’s told is suspenseful, carefully crafted, and engrossing. For me …. I’d rate this book about a 3.7… it’s better than average due to the way in which the story is orchestrated….and it kept me engaged— but with ‘content’ this bleak - (although Joyce Carol Oates was clearly reflecting the ugliness in our society) — rating any higher just doesn’t feel right - for me -either. However… I like Joyce Carol Oates books. (yes, I’m aware that many of my friends stopped reading her years ago)… Not me. I admire this 84 year old author. She knows how to spin a yarn with her highly imaginable stories.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Michael Burke

    The Neglected and Unloved Identity crisis? Midlife crisis? Hannah Jarrett has found herself adrift without gravity to pull her in any direction. She is 39 years old, married to a successful business man who no longer seems to feel one way or the other about her, with two young children who seem more dependent on the housekeeper than on her. Hannah tumbles from depression to paranoia to ecstasy without the pretense she is in control. The ecstasy comes from a dubious source. A mysterious man has ent The Neglected and Unloved Identity crisis? Midlife crisis? Hannah Jarrett has found herself adrift without gravity to pull her in any direction. She is 39 years old, married to a successful business man who no longer seems to feel one way or the other about her, with two young children who seem more dependent on the housekeeper than on her. Hannah tumbles from depression to paranoia to ecstasy without the pretense she is in control. The ecstasy comes from a dubious source. A mysterious man has entered the picture during a time she is at her most vulnerable. With a seductive confidence he approaches her and tells her to meet at his room for a rendezvous. Hannah finds herself driving to his hotel, takes the room key from the front desk, rides the long ride up the elevator, and takes the long walk down the aisle to confront a hanging “Do Not Disturb” sign. Joyce Carol Oates has made this more than a journey from point A to point B– we are privy to every doubt in Hannah’s mind. Is this the right thing to do? No, of course this is wrong and could lead to disaster…but it can not be wrong to want to be desired. Sex does not even seem to be the point– it is the affection she is crying out for. The Babysitter is the name coined for a serial killer who is victimizing young children in the area. As a mother herself, Hannah has the normal expected concerns for her children, but the killer has not been preying on families in well-to-do properties such as hers. She tells herself the Babysitter takes only the neglected and unloved. The plotlines do mesh, of course, as cruel and suspicious characters emerge to further the mystery. There is a brutal streak in this book, necessary but appalling– particularly the sexual savagery and the abuse to the children. We are dealing with monsters here. This is just a heads-up, expounding would circle the spoiler area. “The Babysitter” runs a little deliberate at times, especially given the “thriller” tag, but Oates has meticulously portrayed real flesh and blood characters. Hannah is sympathetic, if not very admirable, in her helplessness. At one point she is told a string of pearls has lost most of its value after being neglected and unloved for too long– and that is pretty much the way she sees herself. Her flaw is in having learned to validate her worth through the eyes of others, men particularly. Thank you to Knopf and Edelweiss for providing the advance reader copy in exchange for an honest review. #Babysitter #Edelweiss #Knopf.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Roman Clodia

    4.5 stars No way that Hannah can speak the truth to Wes: she has no idea what the truth is... he will soon resume the entitlement of authority that is his right by birth, class, profession: the man whose word is not to be doubted This, for me, is the best thing that JCO has written in the last few years. It's a complex text that jumps seamlessly through the inner consciousness of various characters, into 3rd person omniscient and back out again. That this is done so fluidly without jarring mom 4.5 stars No way that Hannah can speak the truth to Wes: she has no idea what the truth is... he will soon resume the entitlement of authority that is his right by birth, class, profession: the man whose word is not to be doubted This, for me, is the best thing that JCO has written in the last few years. It's a complex text that jumps seamlessly through the inner consciousness of various characters, into 3rd person omniscient and back out again. That this is done so fluidly without jarring moments for the reader is already impressive and, combined with the hard-hitting contents that JCO forces us not to look away from, this is quite the tour de force. Set in Detroit in 1977 (but really set anywhere ruled by patriarchy, racial hierarchies and capitalism), JCO somehow manages to draw comparisons between all kinds of powers and states of oppression: from child abuse to sexual predators, from the authorities assigned to wealth and race to gendered asymmetries and the domestic assumptions, not least motherhood, with which women are burdened. At the heart of the book is Hannah, a late thirties, wealthy (well, she's married to a rich husband) wife and mother with nothing to do with her time other than sit on benevolent charitable committees with other ladies-who-lunch - she has a live-in nanny (Hannah's not completely sure whether her brown skin is from the Philippines or somewhere from Latin America), she's dressed in designer clothes from her cashmere coats to her YSL snakeskin shoes and her Prada bag (natch!) and if her husband doesn't pay attention to her, well, that's natural in a ten year marriage... isn't it? What kickstarts Hannah's crisis is the touch of a strange man's hand on her wrist at a gala dinner - and soon her life is terrifyingly off the rails. That this is not just a personal calamity for Hannah is made clear through JCO's setting of her story against the reign of a serial killer who abducts children, primarily boys. There's so much woven together here: the sterile life of women stripped of any kind of social authorisation other than motherhood; the desperate neediness and desire to be loved that is society's way of containing and holding out rewards to women; violence and brutality, sexual and otherwise; with an omniscient social commentary from now especially on race, the (false) criminalisation of Black men, money, and the power of guns. Stylistically, not everyone will, I think, respond to JCO's prose: it's iterative and creatively intuitive, sections are hypnotic and hallucinogenic, and sometimes the narrative splits so that there are alternatives captured and held together as alternatives to a single route. I loved it as we flip backwards and forwards and the story itself becomes one that we piece together in collaboration with author and text. Beware: JCO is bold in her vision and brutal in what she allows to be on the page. A powerful, sometimes terrifying, book - and yes, the best thing she's written in years. Many thanks to 4th Estate for an ARC via NetGalley

  4. 4 out of 5

    Constantine

    Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ Genre: Literary Fiction + Mystery Thriller This story is set in 1977 Detroit. It is about this serial killer who is known by the media as Babysitter. His victims are white kids between the ages of eleven and fourteen. His goal is to target those children who are not loved and not deserved. All this is actually more like a backdrop of the story, The story’s focus is more on Hannah, a 39-year-old housewife whose relationship with her husband Wes has been deteriorating over time. She has Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ Genre: Literary Fiction + Mystery Thriller This story is set in 1977 Detroit. It is about this serial killer who is known by the media as Babysitter. His victims are white kids between the ages of eleven and fourteen. His goal is to target those children who are not loved and not deserved. All this is actually more like a backdrop of the story, The story’s focus is more on Hannah, a 39-year-old housewife whose relationship with her husband Wes has been deteriorating over time. She has an affair with another man. What she thought would be an innocent flirtation turns into an assault! How will Hannah deal with this situation? And what does all this has to do with Babysitter? You need to read to know. This is my first book by Joyce Carol Oates. I have another book of hers in my TBR but decided to go for this one first as it is the newest release. Honestly, I’m conflicted about her writing style. In the first couple of chapters, I felt the sentences were not complete. And later chapters got wordy and longer. The direction the plot was taking felt more convoluted to me. I can’t hide my disappointment about the serial killer just being a backdrop in the story. The protagonist is Hannah and through her actions, the story progresses. Despite expecting more from this book and its author, I still think it was a decent read. However, it has many trigger warnings like kidnap, murder, rape, infidelity, racism, etc so you have to be careful if you decide to pick it up. I doubt the main character would be a favorite character by readers. Relating to her or accepting her actions is hardly possible. Many thanks to the publisher Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Knopf, and NetGalley for providing me with an advance reader copy of this book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Trisha

    One word: Insufferable. This book was a migraine in disguise. Resentful characters, a chaotic timeline that runs back and forth, tedious descriptions, annoying usage of parentheses and a frustratingly slow pace; I struggled through this book and if not for my OCD of finishing off books, I’d have abandoned this soon after I started reading it. Hannah is an unhappy (white) (thirty-nine-year-old) wife of a rich (white) businessman who is having an (extramarital) affair with a man she met at one of t One word: Insufferable. This book was a migraine in disguise. Resentful characters, a chaotic timeline that runs back and forth, tedious descriptions, annoying usage of parentheses and a frustratingly slow pace; I struggled through this book and if not for my OCD of finishing off books, I’d have abandoned this soon after I started reading it. Hannah is an unhappy (white) (thirty-nine-year-old) wife of a rich (white) businessman who is having an (extramarital) affair with a man she met at one of the fundraisers organised by her. Despite her (self-loathing) fearfulness that this affair would make God punish her (for she has sinned) by taking away her children, she continues with the affair. She has had a traumatic childhood which is never quite revealed in the book, but based on her disjointed memory flashes, we know that she had a troubled relationship with her parents. She is a submissive wife (to her husband) and lover (to her lover), an anxious (bad) mother and a restless (spineless) woman. 80% of the book is about Hannah - sometimes hating herself and other times, hating everyone around her. The remaining 20% is about a serial killer, known popularly as the Babysitter, who kills children (mostly boys) who are poor and unloved (usually orphaned or those with uncaring parents). As the Babysitter starts preying closer to Hannah’s home, an (even more) anxious Hannah starts to make some connections. This might sound like a mystery thriller but it is not. Not by a mile. It is about a (pathetic) self-centred woman who thinks everything is about her. The waiter addresses her as ‘Ma’am’ because he must be ridiculing her for her age, race, or whatever. The housekeeper doesn’t answer her back because she is pretending to be submissive to her white owner. Her husband hasn’t taken her call because he must be avoiding her, maybe planning a divorce. Hannah is an insufferable pretentious woman with whom I felt no connection and just couldn’t sympathise. I knew this book was a mistake from the first page. I still read it. Suffered it. The writing style was difficult to follow - confusing - like a fever dream. The descriptions are too long drawn with tiny (boring) details that make no sense, other than to make the overall experience a pain. In the end, I want to apologise for my unforgivable usage of parentheses in this review, but this is only a preview of what the actual book looks like. Overall, a miserable book. Not recommended. Thanks to Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for my review. Babysitter is now available for purchase. 1/5🌟(rounding down). TW: Racism, Sexism, Infidelity, Rape, Child Abuse, Bad Parenting, Alcohol and Substance Abuse.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Beata

    I am new to JCO's writing, having read only one of her books. Ms Oates's writing is as disturning as the main motif of her novel and I agree that it should not be otherwise. A novel that will not leave you want for more as it is dark and covers some sensitive issues such as rape, drugs and child abuse. Ms Oates in her own unique style takes us on a reading journey that will not be easily forgotten. *Many thanks to Joyce Carol Oates, 4th Estate, and NetGalley for arc in exchange for my honest revi I am new to JCO's writing, having read only one of her books. Ms Oates's writing is as disturning as the main motif of her novel and I agree that it should not be otherwise. A novel that will not leave you want for more as it is dark and covers some sensitive issues such as rape, drugs and child abuse. Ms Oates in her own unique style takes us on a reading journey that will not be easily forgotten. *Many thanks to Joyce Carol Oates, 4th Estate, and NetGalley for arc in exchange for my honest review.*

  7. 4 out of 5

    Eric Anderson

    The opening of “Babysitter” obsessively focuses on a few moments in time as a woman ascends in a glass hotel elevator to the 61st floor and walks down a corridor to a room with a sign on the door that loudly declares “PRIVACY PLEASE! DO NOT DISTURB”. Hannah is a wealthy wife and mother living in a Detroit suburb in the 1970s. She has arrived for an assignation and to engage in an affair with a mysterious man she met briefly at a party. Like in a fairy tale, violating the message on this door and The opening of “Babysitter” obsessively focuses on a few moments in time as a woman ascends in a glass hotel elevator to the 61st floor and walks down a corridor to a room with a sign on the door that loudly declares “PRIVACY PLEASE! DO NOT DISTURB”. Hannah is a wealthy wife and mother living in a Detroit suburb in the 1970s. She has arrived for an assignation and to engage in an affair with a mysterious man she met briefly at a party. Like in a fairy tale, violating the message on this door and entering the room will irrevocably alter her life to liberate or destroy it. However, this story isn't as concerned with consequences as it is in moments in our life when there is a profound shift from one stage to another. So the narrative catches in a time loop like a snippet of film which plays over and over: “The vision overcame her. And this, too, cinematic, in a flash. Yet, strangely, not a vision so much as a memory.” The style of detailing the minutiae of a seemingly ordinary action is reminiscent of Nicholson Baker's “The Mezzanine” and by following Hannah in these brief moments we come to understand her position in life and her milieu of white upper class privilege. She is a passive woman living amongst deadly powerful men who make their own rules and dominate the people around them. This novel presents a vivid, hallucinatory and thought-provoking portrait of those whose lives brush against an elusive serial killer preying upon children. Read my full review of Babysitter by Joyce Carol Oates at LonesomeReader You can watch me discuss “Babysitter” with Joyce Carol Oates here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StX-dEuDo3A

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kasa Cotugno

    The setting is Detroit in the late 1970's, and once again, Joyce Carol Oates flips the page. She manages to consistently write well crafted, hefty tomes, gets inside her characters' heads and still manage to make the plotlines propulsive and, in this case, very timely. although set in the late 1970's, there is an element of today's world that rocks the center of this account of Hannah, a dissatisfied housewife who finds she's in over her head upon embarking on an ill-advised affair with a man wh The setting is Detroit in the late 1970's, and once again, Joyce Carol Oates flips the page. She manages to consistently write well crafted, hefty tomes, gets inside her characters' heads and still manage to make the plotlines propulsive and, in this case, very timely. although set in the late 1970's, there is an element of today's world that rocks the center of this account of Hannah, a dissatisfied housewife who finds she's in over her head upon embarking on an ill-advised affair with a man whose name she doesn't even know. Employing several points of view, events spin out of control rapidly, enjoining the reader to shout "No! What are you thinking!" at times. But JCO also includes the element of real life in that the title refers to an actual serial killer stalking children at the time, plus the racist upheavals at the time that provide one of the book's most gut wrenching episodes. JCO is a powerful writer, one who has not slowed down despite being over 80 years of age. She has a point of view, is fearless, and is not afraid to explore the darkest sides of humankind.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Cody | CodysBookshelf

    Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the ARC! I’ve been sitting on my thoughts of this book for a few days, unsure exactly what my final rating would be or what I’d say in a review. This book, in a word, is infuriating. It isn’t for the impatient reader. Joyce Carol Oates is my favorite author, and that’s the only reason I pushed on. She’s in capital-L Literary form here, and I think a reread is in order. The things that irritated me made sense by the story’s end, so . . . JCO isn’t known fo Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the ARC! I’ve been sitting on my thoughts of this book for a few days, unsure exactly what my final rating would be or what I’d say in a review. This book, in a word, is infuriating. It isn’t for the impatient reader. Joyce Carol Oates is my favorite author, and that’s the only reason I pushed on. She’s in capital-L Literary form here, and I think a reread is in order. The things that irritated me made sense by the story’s end, so . . . JCO isn’t known for crafting exactly likable characters, but ones that feel REAL. For good or bad. Hannah, our main character, is almost frustratingly naive at times, but I guess I will chalk it up to love (and lust) making us blind. Still, sometimes I wanted to shake her by the shoulders and say “Lady! Don’t you see all these red flags?” Also, this book is set in Detroit 1977 but really, it could’ve been set anywhere and anytime. This story could have taken place today. There weren’t many attempts at making the setting “feel” real, and some character thoughts and actions feel more like 2022 than 1977. Not necessarily a complaint, just something that amused me. Also, cordless phones were around in the 1970s? I had no idea. Sinister, involving, frustrating, thrilling . . . this novel is all those things, and more. I wouldn’t recommend this for a newcomer to JCO. Maybe start with some of her short fiction. But for her established fans—go for it!

  10. 5 out of 5

    OutlawPoet

    This book was an absolute trip for me. I started out hating it. Like 1-star-if-you’re-lucky hating it. I ended up really liking it. Hannah spends sooooo much time whining about the unfairness of life and being mommy and hey I’m white what do brown people think of me and gee if my kids get killed by a serial killer that’s my punishment for having an affair. There were multiple pages where Hannah just…thinks about how she’s white and wonders if her brown housekeeper is judging her. And for a while i This book was an absolute trip for me. I started out hating it. Like 1-star-if-you’re-lucky hating it. I ended up really liking it. Hannah spends sooooo much time whining about the unfairness of life and being mommy and hey I’m white what do brown people think of me and gee if my kids get killed by a serial killer that’s my punishment for having an affair. There were multiple pages where Hannah just…thinks about how she’s white and wonders if her brown housekeeper is judging her. And for a while it seemed like the entire affair was her walking to the elevator, walking to the room, thinking about being white, oh he touched my wrist, ooh I’ll have a lover with nothing (absolutely nothing) actually happening. However… At some point, all the stuff about her being white actually ends up relevant. The affair very wrongly happens. The serial killer aspect comes into play more and more and it’s heartbreaking and horrible. And, though I never really liked Hannah, I understood her a bit more, hated her husband, and was just waiting for our characters to pay for their specific stupidity and privilege. Shockingly, I went from 1-star-if-you’re-lucky to absolutely enjoying the read completely caught up in the dangerous suspense of it all. Also, I kind of dug how relevant much of it is to today’s world. I can’t give it a five star (the hatred I felt in the beginning and I didn’t completely love the way it ended), but it surprised me, angered me, and made me feel. *ARC via Publisher

  11. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne

    This is my first book by this author. I was confused when I started reading this book, so I admit I looked more into the author. She is known for writing unlikable characters and she did a great job of doing that with this book. As soon as I was intrigued, something happens to turn me off. The book has a lot of scenes repeated over and over again. There are also a lot of different characters that didn’t fit organically. The plot was confusing at times and the ending was weird. I always say not e This is my first book by this author. I was confused when I started reading this book, so I admit I looked more into the author. She is known for writing unlikable characters and she did a great job of doing that with this book. As soon as I was intrigued, something happens to turn me off. The book has a lot of scenes repeated over and over again. There are also a lot of different characters that didn’t fit organically. The plot was confusing at times and the ending was weird. I always say not every book is for everyone and this book wasn’t for me. Thanks to Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group for an E-ARC via NetGalley. Publication date is anticipated for 8/23/2022.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    Hannah Jarrett is a wealthy, bored and neglected housewife in 1977 Detroit. A chance encounter with a stranger at a charity event sets Hannah on a path that will make her wish for her old dull and repetitive life back. This is a creepy and dark read and I would'nt expect anything less from JCO. I've read 11 of her books and she does not do happy ever. I would have given this 5 stars but the ending was abrupt and left me wanting more which is saying a lot for a 431 page book. And as an added plus Hannah Jarrett is a wealthy, bored and neglected housewife in 1977 Detroit. A chance encounter with a stranger at a charity event sets Hannah on a path that will make her wish for her old dull and repetitive life back. This is a creepy and dark read and I would'nt expect anything less from JCO. I've read 11 of her books and she does not do happy ever. I would have given this 5 stars but the ending was abrupt and left me wanting more which is saying a lot for a 431 page book. And as an added plus throw a serial killer into the mix and this was one creepy dark disturbing read.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Martie Nees Record

    Genre: Literary Fiction/Mystery & Thrillers Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Pub. Date: August 23, 2022 One of America’s greatest writers, Joyce Carol Oates, revisits her usual themes of class struggle, the vulnerability of girls, and racism in her latest novel. Following a white, privileged female protagonist, she leads the reader through a labyrinth of horrors: sexual re-victimization, violent marriages, ruthless lovers, pedophile priests, serial child murders, incest, and rape. As only a master can, s Genre: Literary Fiction/Mystery & Thrillers Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Pub. Date: August 23, 2022 One of America’s greatest writers, Joyce Carol Oates, revisits her usual themes of class struggle, the vulnerability of girls, and racism in her latest novel. Following a white, privileged female protagonist, she leads the reader through a labyrinth of horrors: sexual re-victimization, violent marriages, ruthless lovers, pedophile priests, serial child murders, incest, and rape. As only a master can, she writes as if you can see into the souls of her characters. Her carefully constructed sentences render her protagonist simultaneously sympathetic and repellent. Some parts of the story are so cringe-worthy that I needed to take a break from the book. At 84 years of age, no one writes about violence with a deeper awareness than she does. Still, I feel that this novel is only for JCO fans. She even throws in a childhood terminal illness. It is just a bit too much to cram into one story. If you are unfamiliar with the idea of sexual re-victimization, you won’t be after reading “Babysitter.” The term refers to the increased risk of adult sexual assault faced by women with a history of childhood sexual assault. In 1977, Hannah Jarrett, “an attractive white woman in her late 30s, is living the American dream: a wealthy husband, two kids, a home in the Michigan suburbs, and a Filipina nanny. She spends her days at country clubs and community relations forums.” She believes that she hides her insecurities behind her expensive and sophisticated wardrobe. But, due to abuse experienced in her childhood, Hannah cannot recognize the warning signs exhibited by people around her. She meets a man at a party and starts what she considers an affair. The man drugs, beats, and brutally rapes her. Despite the severe abuse, she calls him her lover. In addition to exploring the patriarchal marriage dynamics, Oates also uses “Hannah’s marriage to explore the deeply embedded racism of 1970s suburban America.” The author nails white supremacy. When Hannah is discovered in the hotel lobby, battered and bruised by her so-called lover, a young black parking attendant is immediately accused of rape. Confused, she never denies that this young man is her rapist. The police shot and killed him, stating that he was resisting arrest. The book’s title refers not to Hannah’s nanny but to a serial killer who sexually molests and tortures children before killing them. Unsurprisingly, Hannah’s husband is convinced that he must be a black man from Detroit. Sadly, JCO takes her horror stories from real life. What makes the “Babysitter” even viler is that the plot is based on a true story. In the 1970s, a real-life serial killer called the Babysitter Killer, also known as the Oakland County Child Killer, abducted and murdered children around Detroit. Per the Boston Globe, “he left their bodies on display in public places a few weeks after they disappeared. Several suspects, including the son of a prominent man who later committed suicide [also in the book], were identified, and the investigation led to a child pornography ring, but the case was never solved.” Spoiler alert: Nor is it in the novel. If you are looking for answers, the author gives none. Oates has never shied away from taking her readers on dark journeys. It cannot be denied that her stories will leave you with a better understanding of the psyches of both perpetrators and victims. I am a loyal JCO fan and am glad I read her latest. I hesitate to recommend the book, as it is not for the faint of heart. However, if you are already a fan, you know that her work can get grisly. It appears that she just keeps getting better at what she does. I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review. Find all my book reviews at: https://www.goodreads.com/review/list… https://books6259.wordpress.com/ https://www.barnesandnoble.com/review… https://www.facebook.com/martie.neesr… https://twitter.com/NeesRecord\ https://www.amazon.com/

  14. 5 out of 5

    Abby

    Thank you to NetGalley and Knopf for allowing me to read this ARC! Content Warning: death (including that of a child), murder, violence, rape (on-page), homophobia, racism, racist slurs, homophobic slurs, victim-blaming, suicidal ideation, child abuse (physical, emotional and sexual). For more of my reviews, check out my blog! Detroit, 1977. Hannah Jarrett lives a privileged life; the wife of a wealthy man, the mother of two perfect children, the co-chair of many esteemed fundraisers and charity ev Thank you to NetGalley and Knopf for allowing me to read this ARC! Content Warning: death (including that of a child), murder, violence, rape (on-page), homophobia, racism, racist slurs, homophobic slurs, victim-blaming, suicidal ideation, child abuse (physical, emotional and sexual). For more of my reviews, check out my blog! Detroit, 1977. Hannah Jarrett lives a privileged life; the wife of a wealthy man, the mother of two perfect children, the co-chair of many esteemed fundraisers and charity events. In the midst of her outwardly perfect -- if boring -- life, Hannah suddenly and unexpectedly meets a man who she is instantly drawn to. Calling himself only Y.K., Hannah falls headfirst into an affair that will change the course of her life forever. In another part of Detroit, there's Mikey, connected not only to Y.K., but to Babysitter, the child killer stalking the streets. As Hannah grows more and more suspicious of Y.K., questioning whether he is implicated in the Babysitter killings, everyone -- including Hannah's children and her husband -- will be drawn into the turmoil... Joyce Carol Oates is adept at crafting stories centered around darkness. Of the several other books I've read by her, they were all similarly filled with themes of lust, hatred, and murder, and while some of them were more successful than others, I knew going into Babysitter that this type of tale was in good hands. Her stories often play with subversion, subterfuge, and nontraditional forms of writing, and so those who are not familiar with her style may find it a bit strange at first -- even I, having not read anything by her in a while, found it a bit jarring at first. However, the longer I read, the more compulsively I found myself consuming this, eager to know what frightening turn the plot might take. Hannah Jarrett is our (main) protagonist; I would describe her as being squarely in the middle of the events that take place here, as well as the characters who surround her. She, both narratively and as a character, provides a sort of stepping stone, an opportunity for the reader to see themselves in the story. However, like most of Oates's protagonists, she is not likable on principle; she is complex, deeply flawed, and very, very naïve. I appreciated Oates's efforts to show us that while Hannah thinks of herself as being "rational" and "nonracist," she nonetheless continuously insults her children's Filipina nanny, Ismelda, with microaggressions. She projects her insecurities and fears onto Ismelda, the "other," just like her husband, Wes, does, though his is more outwardly aggressive, more "male." Racism is a big theme in this book, as is fitting, I think, for a novel that takes place in 1970s' Detroit. Present, too, as in all of Oates's novels, are the questions of womanhood, femininity, and how motherhood changes women (for better and worse). Some of her attempts at dissecting racism are better than others but, overall, I think the message here is well-conveyed -- that racism is insidious in its many forms, and that white women perpetuate racism in ways different than their male counterparts (but that all are equally reprehensible). Her discussions of misogyny are incisive and clever, as always. Now, onto why it didn't quite get the full four stars from me... my main complaint is that, sometimes, I struggled to truly "click" with the story or its characters. Mistakenly, I thought that this novel would revolve mainly around the Babysitter killer, also known as the Oakland County Child Killer, who I do have some prior knowledge of. Instead, this deals mostly with people who are connected to him, both tangentially and more closely, which I found a touch disappointing. The child killings serve more as a backdrop for what's going on in Hannah's life, as well as exacerbating her already heightened fears as a mother. It's important that I mention that while this book does deal with many dark, horrible things, sometimes in graphic detail, I never felt as if Oates was exploiting the real life tragedies that Babysitter committed. I didn't like Hannah, per se; she's gullible, a bit spineless, not to mention her strange racist assumptions about Ismelda. However, I see the purpose of her story, and I do enjoy the fact that Oates doesn't worry so much about how "relatable" or "likable" her characters are. The story also feels disjointed, sometimes confusing; while this does work well in some aspects, in others, it fails to achieve its intentions. For example, the ending -- I'm still confused about what exactly it was meant to signify, even how much of it is "real." That might work for some readers, but in my case, it left me feeling a bit let down after the rather arduous journey I took to get there. Ultimately, I think Babysitter succeeds in many of its efforts, but as a whole, it felt like a jigsaw puzzle missing a few pieces. I'd recommend this to Oates's fans, and to anyone who might have a fascination with true crime like I do.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Bob Hughes

    This book is a wild ride- one which made me scared, uneasy and disgusted in deep, visceral ways, but was incredible. The title belies the cruelty at the heart of the book- a slew of children go missing, with the perpetrator being nicknamed, with horrible irony, the 'Babysitter'. In the midst of this, we get several plotlines of people who are caught up and complicit in what is happening, and others just trying to survive and make sense of something that seems vastly unknowable. The opening scene f This book is a wild ride- one which made me scared, uneasy and disgusted in deep, visceral ways, but was incredible. The title belies the cruelty at the heart of the book- a slew of children go missing, with the perpetrator being nicknamed, with horrible irony, the 'Babysitter'. In the midst of this, we get several plotlines of people who are caught up and complicit in what is happening, and others just trying to survive and make sense of something that seems vastly unknowable. The opening scene feels like it almost resists the urge of a standard book covering these themes, with almost all the action taking place inside a character's head as she heads towards a hotel room, but in many ways it sets up the ghastly horror within so many of the characters. The writing is unflinching, raw, and incredibly deft, often navigating especially tricky descriptions with exquisite mastery. Oates will often describe a character in one or two withering sentences, and then quickly move on to the action (a particular favourite was this description: "Upright rodent. Halfway metamorphosed into a man.") This is a deeply uncomfortable read in many ways, and pretty much every content warning applies for this book, but this book held me in its deathly grip, and made me almost miss several train stations. I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Royce

    “See?-I don’t loathe you, your touch. Your smell. I do not even see you, how could I loathe you, my dear wife?” “Who is it in the Jarrett household who sees Hannah?-not Wes, not the children. Only Ismelda.” (the nanny) Hannah Jarrett, wife and young mother, privileged beyond measure, yet all she desires is to be “seen” and ultimately, loved. Babysitter showcases JCO’s mesmerizing storytelling; the dark, creepy, never want to stop reading and hope I can sleep tonight kind of storytelling. I do not “See?-I don’t loathe you, your touch. Your smell. I do not even see you, how could I loathe you, my dear wife?” “Who is it in the Jarrett household who sees Hannah?-not Wes, not the children. Only Ismelda.” (the nanny) Hannah Jarrett, wife and young mother, privileged beyond measure, yet all she desires is to be “seen” and ultimately, loved. Babysitter showcases JCO’s mesmerizing storytelling; the dark, creepy, never want to stop reading and hope I can sleep tonight kind of storytelling. I do not think I will ever be able to read the word babysitter without feeling unsettled, frightened, and reminded of this scary, dare I say, horror story. In a nutshell, while reading, you feel a small pit at the bottom of your stomach, you worry that Hannah Jarrett is going to do the wrong thing. And she does the wrong thing repeatedly, yet you continue reading because the writing requires you to continue. You must see what happens. How will Hannah Jarrett fare? Knowing full well, she will not fare well, but yet you keep reading, until the final page. Highly recommended to all JCO fans.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Elaine

    Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC of Babysitter. There's no doubt Ms. Oates can write but this was not what I expected. The title refers to an insidious serial killer kidnapping unwanted children in Detroit 1977. But the story revolves around a housewife having a wild and dangerous affair with a stranger. The manhunt for the Babysitter happens on the periphery of this woman's life as she struggles to maintain the illusion as a happy wife and mother while entertaining dark fantasies of leaving h Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC of Babysitter. There's no doubt Ms. Oates can write but this was not what I expected. The title refers to an insidious serial killer kidnapping unwanted children in Detroit 1977. But the story revolves around a housewife having a wild and dangerous affair with a stranger. The manhunt for the Babysitter happens on the periphery of this woman's life as she struggles to maintain the illusion as a happy wife and mother while entertaining dark fantasies of leaving her husband, Wes, for a man who treats her like garbage. The writing style is incredibly difficult to read, sort of a stream of consciousness-style. The prose is wordy and verbose; for example, the author spends several chapters discussing how the wife feels, her thoughts, her constant, repetitive ruminations as she goes to meet her lover at his hotel room. This is typical of the entire narrative; endless chapters on what the housewife is doing; just one action takes several chapters to describe in excruciating, painstaking, boring ass detail. There are disturbing triggering themes including sexual abuse, assault, rape, and pedophilia so readers beware! I'm not exactly sure what the purpose of the story is. I didn't like any of the characters, least of all the housewife. She was one dimensional and lacked any personality or strong character traits. I've only read a few of the author's books mainly because her writing style isn't for everyone. That strongly applies to Babysitter, but a hard core fan of the author would love this. I definitely did not.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Marjorie

    This is one of the most intense, unsettling books I’ve ever read. Ms. Oates does a superb job of drawing us into the lives and minds of these characters. Absolutely riveting. Most highly recommended.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    I've read several of JCO's books and short stories, and as I was reading this, I thought--Ms. Oates, what are you doing? This is horrible, it's brutal, it's junk. When I'd gotten a third of the way through it, though, I realized that it wasn't. There was nothing prurient, nothing pornographic about the assault on the main character, Hannah. It was a prelude to knowing about stupid and fatal mistakes, and there was a backdrop of racisim--JCO went to a bit of an extreme here, but it hit home. JCO ge I've read several of JCO's books and short stories, and as I was reading this, I thought--Ms. Oates, what are you doing? This is horrible, it's brutal, it's junk. When I'd gotten a third of the way through it, though, I realized that it wasn't. There was nothing prurient, nothing pornographic about the assault on the main character, Hannah. It was a prelude to knowing about stupid and fatal mistakes, and there was a backdrop of racisim--JCO went to a bit of an extreme here, but it hit home. JCO gets into the psyche of her main characters, and by the time I was finished, I'd wanted to shake Hannah, walk away from her, pity her, think "well, you had that coming to you, didn't you?" And then, I thought, how much of Hannah is there in me? That's this writer's gift--her characters are often mirrors. And I had no love for any of them, including her young children, except for Ismelda and Ponytail, who had a bad beginning and seemed to be seriously struggling to do the right thing, except he was too loaded on street drugs most of the time. Hannah's husband, Wes, was a shallow, racist, wealthy ass--almost a caricature at times. He's also a neglectful husband. The friends and neighbors were all shadows and stereotypes, which was one weakness of the book,even with all the focus on Hannah. YK, Hannah's "lover"--and we don't get the name--is a conglomeration of all the evil you can imagine. Hannah you want to slap silly. YK you want to push down a flight of stone stairs and then dance on his tender areas with spiked shoes. But back to Ismelda. The title of the book, "Babysitter," refers to a serial murderer of children, who takes them all from poor areas of Detroit, except for the final one. The children are all white, which provokes Wes's racism (and it doesn't take much pushing on those buttons). But ISmelda, the live-in housekeeper, is also the babysitter. Hannah loves her children as much as an insecure, self-centered mother can, but it's Ismelda whom the children depend on to drive them to school, fix them dinner. Ismelda keeps to herself and plays Christian rock in her room during her off-hours and you never quite know what she's thinking, but you can be certain that none of it is maleficent. She doesn't take the children away as much as they're given to her. Hannah could've used a babysitter herself, but that'll take me down another rabbit hole. The ending of the book--well, I'll leave you to it? INsanity? Supernatural forces? You decide. Read the section in the jewelry store/pawn shop with relish--using an obese pawnbroker as a sage and the psychiatrist that would've benefitted Hannah the most had she the tools to take advantage of his pearls--pun intended--of wisdom was a great moment.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    She's back. JCO. Detroit. 1970s. Not a great time in the Motor City, but this is JCO personal gold mine. Hannah is a rich suburban Detroit housewife with terrible judgement involving herself in an extramarital affair with a man about whom she knows nothing. Simultaneously there's a pedophile ring operating in the neighborhood geographically next to hers...with connections to the Catholic Church. There's a bad-guy bagman linking everything together. The "Babysitter" was a real life serial killer She's back. JCO. Detroit. 1970s. Not a great time in the Motor City, but this is JCO personal gold mine. Hannah is a rich suburban Detroit housewife with terrible judgement involving herself in an extramarital affair with a man about whom she knows nothing. Simultaneously there's a pedophile ring operating in the neighborhood geographically next to hers...with connections to the Catholic Church. There's a bad-guy bagman linking everything together. The "Babysitter" was a real life serial killer in Detroit- kidnapping and murdering children. So many terrible things happen in this book. JCO ties all these threads together in a riveting story. 4 stars (because I personally found the ending not as satisfying as I hoped).

  21. 4 out of 5

    Trisha

    I've tried this book as an e-book and I've now tried it (and finished it) as an audiobook. And this one was just not my cup of tea. I found the MC frustrating. It's stream of consciousness writing (my least favorite) and she just rambles on and on about an affair she having and how she's going to be punished for it through her children and that she'a bad mother and bad wife and everyone hates her and no one is nice. . .etc. She even flashes back to daddy issues about how he didn't love her and sm I've tried this book as an e-book and I've now tried it (and finished it) as an audiobook. And this one was just not my cup of tea. I found the MC frustrating. It's stream of consciousness writing (my least favorite) and she just rambles on and on about an affair she having and how she's going to be punished for it through her children and that she'a bad mother and bad wife and everyone hates her and no one is nice. . .etc. She even flashes back to daddy issues about how he didn't love her and smoked cigars and her mother was just submisitive to him (like she needs to be both to this person she's having an affair with and her husband). There were flashes (and a male author) about the serial killer and these kids disappearing but it all seemed like a side plot. The MC could barely see past herself to the mysteries around her and once she finally starting putting the pieces together, I just didn't care anymore. I wish I'd liked it more but this one was just a miss for me. A huge thank you to the author and publisher for providing an e-ARC via Netgalley. This does not affect my opinion regarding the book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ben Dutton

    Babysitter by Joyce Carol Oates is set in 1977 in Detroit. A killer is on the loose that targets children, but Oates is not interested in the investigation, this not a crime thriller. At the novels heart is Hannah, a 39 year old housewife whose marriage is deteriorating. The first third of this novel I struggled with. Oates has form with unlikeable characters, and Hannah is another of these. She whines, moans and seems to not take responsibility. But somewhere in that first third, your opinion ch Babysitter by Joyce Carol Oates is set in 1977 in Detroit. A killer is on the loose that targets children, but Oates is not interested in the investigation, this not a crime thriller. At the novels heart is Hannah, a 39 year old housewife whose marriage is deteriorating. The first third of this novel I struggled with. Oates has form with unlikeable characters, and Hannah is another of these. She whines, moans and seems to not take responsibility. But somewhere in that first third, your opinion changes about this world, about its heroine, and the ballsy, close-to-the-knuckle writing Oates is best known for kicks in and its almost breathless at times. Because of my problems with the first third- and this might just be me - its not quite a five star review, but this us great stuff from one of America's great writers. Thank you to the publishers and Netgalley for the ARC.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Maria Smith

    I've been a longtime fan of JCO. This novel was riveting, disturbing, well written snd often uncomfortable read (due to subject matter and graphic details). Kept me on the edge throughout but was somewhat disappointed with the ending, as it left me feeling like I missed something. Thanks NetGalley for the ARC I've been a longtime fan of JCO. This novel was riveting, disturbing, well written snd often uncomfortable read (due to subject matter and graphic details). Kept me on the edge throughout but was somewhat disappointed with the ending, as it left me feeling like I missed something. Thanks NetGalley for the ARC

  24. 4 out of 5

    Bella Azam

    With all honesty, this was such a hard book to read. And i mean it. Triggering, very disturbing and vivid description of sexual assault, its not a story to take on lightly, it can be too much for you. 3.5 stars (i may rate it 3 stars because idk how to feel about it) Tw: rape, sexual and physical abuse, aggravated sexual assault, murder, kidnapping, graphic violence, pedophilia, racism, manipulation, police brutality, substance abuse, depression, ptsd "I am a beautiful woman, I have a right to be With all honesty, this was such a hard book to read. And i mean it. Triggering, very disturbing and vivid description of sexual assault, its not a story to take on lightly, it can be too much for you. 3.5 stars (i may rate it 3 stars because idk how to feel about it) Tw: rape, sexual and physical abuse, aggravated sexual assault, murder, kidnapping, graphic violence, pedophilia, racism, manipulation, police brutality, substance abuse, depression, ptsd "I am a beautiful woman, I have a right to be loved. I am a desirable woman, I have a right to desire" Grappled with suffocating, ominous narrative, harsh unfiltered obtrusive thoughts of our protagonist Hannah, a rich man's wife living at a rich neighbourhood with 2 children, trapped in a deceptive affairs with a strange, alluring man whom she cannot resist. Intertwined with the shocking killings of children in Detroit in 1970s with a suspect named as Babysitter, a presence so prominent and threatening in the community. In third POV, we got so much depth into Hannah's mind, a very unlikeable character yet her needs for affection screamed so loud in each sentences almost pained me with her naivety. Jumping from one narratives to another with non-linear timeline, skipping forward or flashbacks in weird confusing sequences, this story perplexed me in so many ways. I was invested yet i was confused with so many startling scenes i cannot wrap my head around. The disjointed , patchy sentences, the raw emotions poured out of Hannah, the gruesome details of murders of innocent children, ghastly description of aggravated sexual assaults in here made me nauseous. horrifying to read, this book is not for everyone. A first time reader of this author's work, i will say i like her writing, the unrestrained flawed, darker thoughts she sets on her protagonist's, unabashedly revealing human's deepest troubled mind. I love and hate it at the same time for it make me uncomfortable and disgusted yet i was unable to tear away. This story can be categorized as literary thriller because its unique in terms of storytelling. My favourite parts will be the chapters from the haunting narrative of the murdered victims, those are entrancing and terrifying. I think this book will only appeal to some people due to its subject and the approach but its one of the most interesting book I have read this year so i wont forget it for a long time. Thank you to Times Reads for the review copy.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kori Potenzone

    The Babysitter, is downright terrifying and I could not asked for more! Joyce Carol Oates has the gift for writing and The Babysitter, has surpassed any and all expectations. This book is DARK! There were quite a few times I had tried to put the book down to give myself a breather but within in an instant, I was picking it back up to keep going. I had to remind myself numerous times to "breathe" and to answer your question, yes, it is THAT intense. As you can probably tell by my past reviews, I The Babysitter, is downright terrifying and I could not asked for more! Joyce Carol Oates has the gift for writing and The Babysitter, has surpassed any and all expectations. This book is DARK! There were quite a few times I had tried to put the book down to give myself a breather but within in an instant, I was picking it back up to keep going. I had to remind myself numerous times to "breathe" and to answer your question, yes, it is THAT intense. As you can probably tell by my past reviews, I am a total sucker for all things thriller but what I love even more is when an author can put a true crime "like" , twist on the book. The Babysitter, was just that. It felt incredibly real and as I read along, I became invested in finding out who was kidnapping and killing these kids! I have to tell you, naming the serial killer "The Babysitter" was just downright soul sucking. I was incredibly scared and could not stop thinking about this book long after I concluded. If you are looking for nightmares, step right up. The Babysitter, delivers. FIVE STARS!

  26. 4 out of 5

    sylvie

    Loved this book....what a ride...among Joyce Carol Oates best 💗

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Welsh

    DNF’d this book so I feel a little weird rating and reviewing it but also need to get my thoughts out because I normally LOVE Joyce Carol Oates. There was just something off about the writing, it felt choppy at times :(

  28. 4 out of 5

    Deborah

    A very compelling read set in and around Detroit in the late 1970s, in which a complex web interconnects a group of characters around a serial killer of children, dubbed Babysitter by the press. Told from alternating points of view, chiefly Hannah’s, a housewife and mother in the affluent Detroit suburbs, as she’s drawn into the perilous orbit of a mysterious, charismatic stranger with a malign agenda. The suspense is at times drawn so taut I could hardly carry on reading—but of course I did. Al A very compelling read set in and around Detroit in the late 1970s, in which a complex web interconnects a group of characters around a serial killer of children, dubbed Babysitter by the press. Told from alternating points of view, chiefly Hannah’s, a housewife and mother in the affluent Detroit suburbs, as she’s drawn into the perilous orbit of a mysterious, charismatic stranger with a malign agenda. The suspense is at times drawn so taut I could hardly carry on reading—but of course I did. Along with the ever-threatened lethal peril in which Hannah was placed, this harrowing novel also contains several searing sub-plots, indictments of racism and sanctioned sexual predation. Just too good to abandon. Chew nails and carry on!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Martin Maenza

    The latest novel by Joyce Carol Oates is Babysitter and will be released on August 23, 2022; Knopf Doubleday Publishing provided me an early galley for review. While our library carries quite a few of Oates' previous novels, I must admit that she was not an author with whose work I was familiar. Thus, this one was my first experience with her writing style and approach. A number of things jumped right out at me from the start. First, the author went with short phrases or words to title each chapte The latest novel by Joyce Carol Oates is Babysitter and will be released on August 23, 2022; Knopf Doubleday Publishing provided me an early galley for review. While our library carries quite a few of Oates' previous novels, I must admit that she was not an author with whose work I was familiar. Thus, this one was my first experience with her writing style and approach. A number of things jumped right out at me from the start. First, the author went with short phrases or words to title each chapter rather than number them. While not uncommon, it is definitely something I do not see as much in books I tend to read. I like that change of pace. It can be very effective and counter any "chapter-counting" (i.e., "how far do I have left to go") reading approaches. What attracted me to this story was it being set in Detroit (I've been a northeast Michigan resident for almost a decade) in the later part of the 1970's (I was a child of the 70's). Given that, I expected a lot of familiar touchpoints. However, except for some sprinkling of actual locale names (versus the made-up ones that are also in there) and the continual year reference of 1977 (and very little other topical and cultural details of the decade), I felt this story could have taken place in any major city and any decade. For me, that was two wasted opportunities. I also struggled with the writing style, especially in the early chapters of the novel. There was a lot of sentences that were not standard noun-verb structure. I was always taught that a prepositional phrase alone does not a sentence make; a few I can ignore but quite a lot comes across as distracting and a reading struggle. It almost felt like being in a perpetual state of extreme intoxication or a dazed cloud of confusion. Lastly, I could not relate to any of the main characters. That might have been a side effect of the writing style or possibly just the dark nature of the story's subject matter (infidelity and brutal violence). I am sure Babysitter will find its audience, especially for faithful Joyce Carol Oates readers. I just am not one of them.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Boczek

    I am not sure what I just read. Long, drawn out & tedious, I often felt anxiety trying to get through these pages. Entirely too many similes. Extensive use of the word “wraith.,” for no discernible reason. Unfortunately, I found myself wanting the book to be over. I kept waiting for something to happen & pieces to fall into place, but that never happened. We are left wondering about every single character, from Hannah to Wes & Y.K. to the Babysitter. I’m so confused and after nearly 500 pages, I I am not sure what I just read. Long, drawn out & tedious, I often felt anxiety trying to get through these pages. Entirely too many similes. Extensive use of the word “wraith.,” for no discernible reason. Unfortunately, I found myself wanting the book to be over. I kept waiting for something to happen & pieces to fall into place, but that never happened. We are left wondering about every single character, from Hannah to Wes & Y.K. to the Babysitter. I’m so confused and after nearly 500 pages, I was hoping for way more.

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