marya.jpgMarya tells the story of Marya Knauer from her early childhood until I suppose her early thirties when she is established as a well known author following an academic career. After the violent death of her father, her mother abandons Marya and her two young brothers, who are subsequently brought up by an aunt and uncle. The trauma of these early years, including abuse at the hands of a cousin, helps to form Marya’s personality, and we see her develop through school and college, witnessing her key relationships, until she finally decides to find out what became of her mother.

I am a huge admirer of Joyce Carol Oates, and this is another subtle story that really takes hold, even though (or perhaps because) some of the things that happen to Marya are so unpleasant. I’m not sure if I really warmed to her as a person, but she is complex and interesting and held my attention. My only quibble is really with the blurb for the book, which makes a great deal of Marya’s search for her mother even though that really only comes to the fore in the last chapter.

Parts of the novel have appeared in other publications through the years, and the resulting episodic feel as we see Marya at key points in her life really appealed to me.