02 October 2011

The Corn Maiden By Joyce Carol Oates


ISBN-13: 978-0-8021-2602-3
Price: US $24.00
5 1/2 x 8 1/4, 368 pp
Nov. 2011

 An incomparable master storyteller in all forms, in The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares Joyce Carol Oates spins six imaginative tales of suspense. “The Corn Maiden” is the gut-wrenching story of Marissa, a beautiful and sweet but somewhat slow eleven-year-old girl with hair the color of corn silk. Her single mother comes home one night to find her missing and she panics. The police want to know why she left her young daughter alone until 8:00 p.m. With the confession that she’d been with a man, she knows she will be accused of neglect, or worse. Suspicion falls on a computer teacher at Marissa’s school who has no alibi. Obvious clues—perhaps too obvious—point directly to him. Unsuspected is Judah (born Judith), an older girl from the same school who has told two friends in her thrall of the Indian legend of the Corn Maiden, in which a girl is sacrificed to ensure a good crop.

The trusting Marissa goes happily to a secluded basement with the older girls, pleased to be included, and is then convinced that the world has ended and that they are the last survivors. Remaining an unaware hostage for days, she grows weaker on a sparse diet as Judah prepares her for sacrifice. Marissa’s seemingly inevitable fate becomes ever more terrifying as Judah relishes her power, giving the tale unbearable tension with a shocking conclusion.

In “Helping Hands,” published here for the first time, a lonely woman meets a man in the unlikely clutter of a dingy charity shop and extends friendship, which soon turns to quiet and unacknowledged desire. With the mind-set of a victim struggling to overcome her shyness and fears, she has no idea what kinds of doors she may be opening.

The powerful stories in this extraordinary collection further enhance Joyce Carol Oates’s standing as one of the world’s greatest writers of suspense.


Harrowing.  As a mother I can truthfully say that this tale had me up at night, worried in the afternoon, nervous after dropping my child off at school, anxious waiting for her to emerge from the throng of children after school.  Thanks to the Grace of God I am not a single mother forced to make difficult decisions regarding the care and keeping of my child.  I sympathize with every single parent that must find the balance between doing the right thing and doing the right thing.  Either your work suffers or your children suffer.  What a terrible spot to be in.  Yet millions make that awful decision every day and they hope for the best...saying silent prayers and probably some not so silent.  

'The Corn Maiden' is much more than just a cautionary tale for single parents it is also a commentary on modern society and how the self serving choices of individuals effect so much more than just the one or the few.  When society becomes fragmented into individuals, bent on living their lives solely for the pleasure of the self then it is society at large that suffers.  

"They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and good, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."

It is not our goal here on Earth to live for ourselves but to live our lives in service to others and thereby we serve the Lord.  For ours is the Kingdom of God on earth.  All of us.
The Lord was so wise in building the church, because He knew His people would need each other. There is great value to people of like faith being together to keep each other strong. Hebrews 10:24 and 25 says, “let us consider how to stimulate one another and to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”

Joyce Carol Oates is the author of such national best sellers as The Falls, Blonde, and We Were the Mulvaneys. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978, she has won many accolades in her career, among them the National Book Award.
You can visit the author on Facebook here.

* I received a free copy from the publisher for purposes of review. I was in no way obligated to write a review much less a favorable one. The opinions stated herein are all my own.


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