Author: Joyce Carol Oates, 2011.
Genre: Contemporary. Horror. Literary Fiction. Short Stories.
Other Details: Paperback. 365 pages.
I am not usually a fan of short story collections, finding them a little hit and miss. Yet this collection, which contained seven tales of non-supernatural horror, was superb from start to finish. The centrepiece of this collection is the novella, The Corn Maiden, which was my favourite and the most chilling.
The Corn Maiden is Marissa, a beautiful eleven-year old girl with long hair the colour of corn-silk, who is stolen away by a group of teenage girls. They are led by the fanatical Jude, who has convinced her small group of disciples that they need Marissa to recreate a Native American rite, that she claims involves the ritual sacrifice of an innocent 'corn maiden'. The girls also maliciously plant suspicion on another innocent: a male teacher at their school who had angered Jude. There are aspects of what Leah, Marissa's grieving mother, faces in the spotlight of the media that call to mind scenes so familiar from news stories as her life, actions and secrets are laid bare to public scrutiny.
The other six stories involve toxic twins, revenge, sibling rivalry, lonely widows and an ambitious doctor. The stories each embodied a nightmarish situation giving a sense of continuity to the collection.
I've been impressed by the novels of Joyce Carol Oates that I've read and this collection proved to me that the praise about her skill with the short story format is more than justified.