Babysitter: A novel (Hardcover)
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From one of America’s most renowned storytellers—the best-selling author of Blonde—comes a novel about love and deceit, and lust and redemption, against a backdrop of shocking murders in the affluent suburbs of Detroit.
"Hannah’s unreliable, elliptical narrative is seductive and compelling, like following someone into a fever dream ... [Oates] is in no hurry to trigger the action, dropping tiny morsels of foreshadowing to keep us on our toes." —The New York Times Book Review
“Unsettling, mysterious, deft, sinister, eerily plausible.” —Margaret Atwood, best-selling author of The Handmaid's Tale and The Testaments, via Twitter
In the waning days of the turbulent 1970s, in the wake of unsolved child-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 a chilling 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 abductions and 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.
About the Author
JOYCE CAROL OATES is a recipient of the National Humanities Medal, the National Book Critics Circle Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, the National Book Award, and the 2019 Jerusalem Prize for Lifetime Achievement, and has been nominated several times for the Pulitzer Prize. She has written some of the most enduring fiction of our time, including the national best sellers We Were the Mulvaneys; Blonde; and the New York Times best seller The Falls, which won the 2005 Prix Femina. In 2020 she was awarded the Cino Del Duca World Prize for Literature. She is the Roger S. Berlind ’52 Distinguished Professor of the Humanities emerita at Princeton University and has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978.
“[Oates] writes beautifully. Hannah’s unreliable, elliptical narrative is seductive and compelling, like following someone into a fever dream . . . Oates masterfully manipulates the narrative timeline, without losing the reader in the process. She is in no hurry to trigger the action, dropping tiny morsels of foreshadowing to keep us on our toes . . . Babysitter is a ghost story without the ghosts, but with tension thick enough to inspire several heart attacks. Read with care.”
—Oyinkan Braithwaite, The New York Times Book Review
“Violent and vile, timely and terrifying . . . [Babysitter’s] pages are lit up by Oates’s searing rage about patriarchy’s toxic stain, the church’s enabling of and eager participation in the sexual predation of children, racism’s pernicious taint . . . Oates’s ability to create a sickening sense of horror is as keen as ever . . . Oates’s righteous anger, her ability to invest her story with mythological resonance, and her talent at creating eerie scenes all make Babysitter a worthwhile read.”
—Priscilla Gilman, The Boston Globe
“[Babysitter] is a wild and panoramic piece of work, the serial killer’s activities a mere backdrop to a pinpoint vision of a society with rottenness at its core . . . To be able to write with such tearing astuteness about such fiercely contemporary issues would be a feat for any author of any age . . . As ever, Oates’s prose—almost insolently alive—would seem to break all the rules. The result is nothing less than magical . . . Definitely one of Oates’s finest achievements to date, Babysitter is an unforgettable portrait.”
—Julie Myerson, The Guardian
“Babysitter is poetry, yes, but hung on a sturdy framework that supports it. Oates gives us a cast of jagged, interesting characters . . . A smashing success.”
—Meredith Mara, Oprah Daily
“Unsettling, mysterious, deft, sinister, eerily plausible.”
—Margaret Atwood, author of The Testaments, via Twitter
“[Oates’s] noirish new novel is particularly dark—and gripping.”
—Christina Ianzito, AARP Magazine
“Oates contorts language in her descriptions of characters, creating unease as you second-guess who these people truly are, and who to trust . . . Despite the horror of the story, Oates’ skill with narrative and her mastery of prose create a compelling study in the most ugly aspects of human desire.”
—Kimberly Long, Financial Times
“Captivating . . . I could not put this book down!”
— Zibby Owens, Good Morning America
“[Oates] proves once again her unerring grasp on America’s worst fears and desires in Babysitter, an extraordinary slice of suburban noir that centers on a white, wealthy, outlying enclave of Detroit terrorized by a child murderer in the 1970s . . . As [Oates] stares unflinchingly down the barrel of America’s race and gender wars, her absolute moral clarity shines through.”
— Claire Allfree, Daily Mail
“Oates’s unflinching compulsion to go there taps into something powerful and disturbing. I can see a book club discussion of this coming to blows. And possibly some hurled rosé.”
—Lisa Henricksson, Air Mail
“I can’t remember the last time I read a book with the excitement and tension of Babysitter . . . [Oates] is a master at pretty much everything, including domestic suspense . . . Everything crackles: the characters, the plot, she even pumps some new life into the serial killer trope.”
—Lisa Levy, CrimeReads
“Carefully constructed sentences, pitch-perfect dialogue, and a central character who is simultaneously sympathetic and repellent. An outstanding novel from a true modern master who jumps across genres with unrivaled dexterity.”
“A searing work of slow-burning domestic noir . . . Oates paints an unflinching portrait of 1970s upper-middle-class America, touching on issues of racism, classism, and institutional abuse while exploring society’s tendency to value women solely in relation to the role they fill—be it wife, mother, or sexual object.”