In this exciting book, Black Water (Contemporary Fiction, Plume), we glimpse events that culminated in a disastrous leap into the black waters surrounding an island in Maine. It is a fictionalized version of an episode well-known to Americans who followed the frightening and horrifying plunge that turned a politician’s world upside down.

Joyce Carol Oates has created a tradition of taking real-life events and turning them into fiction. In the process, she adds insights that surface from behind the familiar news stories and creates questions about what might have happened.

In this particular story, we follow a young girl, Kelly Kelleher, who is wide-eyed with admiration for the charismatic Senator. They leave a party to rush to the ferry, and along the way, the car crashes through the guard rail and into the waters.

What sets this story apart is the back and forth meanderings of the girl’s mind as she recalls how she came to meet the Senator, moments they shared, her dreams for future events…all flashing “before her eyes” in a slow-motion kind of way.

I kept thinking maybe this story would turn out differently, just like when we watch a movie over and over, hoping for that happily-ever-after. But the conclusions we can draw are really all about those thoughts and feelings that flow like a slideshow of episodes and memories.


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