Oates is a brilliant story teller no matter what the story. I know this because I’ve read many a story of hers. This one might be her most recent work barring the memoir-like book that recently came out. Nonetheless, it took me a good two years to get to it!
This voluminous novel is based on the real-life murder mystery of the JonBenet Ramsey case from the mid-nineties in the States. It is impossible to have lived in the States and to have not been aware of this fascinating and macabre story that permeated the news waves in print and electronic media for years on end– and which to this day remains unsolved.
What is the life of a child prodigy like? What are the parents and family of a child prodigy like? Oates weaves her answers to these two questions throughout the novel, and ties each individual’s story to where the defining point of their lives is the tragedy that is the one common thread that holds them together– literally by a thread.
Unlike real life, however, this is one mystery that is solved in the very end– if not to the public, certainly to the immediate family of parents and brother of the lovely little deceased girl. And there is redemption to the one who never knew how much it was needed– until it is received. Which allows hope to enter into the mind of the reader– hope for a brighter tomorrow for the survivors.