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Babysitter
Cover of Babysitter
Babysitter
A Novel
Borrow Borrow
From one of America’s most renowned storytellers—the best-selling author of Blonde—comes a novel about love and deceit, and lust and redemption, against a backdrop of shocking murders in the affluent suburbs of Detroit.
"Hannah’s unreliable, elliptical narrative is seductive and compelling, like following someone into a fever dream ... [Oates] is in no hurry to trigger the action, dropping tiny morsels of foreshadowing to keep us on our toes." —The New York Times Book Review

“Unsettling, mysterious, deft, sinister, eerily plausible.” —Margaret Atwood, best-selling author of The Handmaid's Tale and The Testaments, via Twitter
In the waning days of the turbulent 1970s, in the wake of unsolved child-killings that have shocked Detroit, the lives of several residents are drawn together with tragic consequences.
There is Hannah, wife of a prominent local businessman, who has begun an affair with a darkly charismatic stranger whose identity remains elusive; Mikey, a canny street hustler who finds himself on a chilling mission to rectify injustice; and the serial killer known as Babysitter, an enigmatic and terrifying figure at the periphery of elite Detroit. As Babysitter continues his rampage of abductions and killings, these individuals intersect with one another in startling and unexpected ways.
Suspenseful, brilliantly orchestrated, and engrossing, Babysitter is a starkly narrated exploration of the riskiness of pursuing alternate lives, calling into question how far we are willing to go to protect those whom we cherish most. In its scathing indictment of corrupt politics, unexamined racism, and the enabling of sexual predation in America, Babysitter is a thrilling work of contemporary fiction.
From one of America’s most renowned storytellers—the best-selling author of Blonde—comes a novel about love and deceit, and lust and redemption, against a backdrop of shocking murders in the affluent suburbs of Detroit.
"Hannah’s unreliable, elliptical narrative is seductive and compelling, like following someone into a fever dream ... [Oates] is in no hurry to trigger the action, dropping tiny morsels of foreshadowing to keep us on our toes." —The New York Times Book Review

“Unsettling, mysterious, deft, sinister, eerily plausible.” —Margaret Atwood, best-selling author of The Handmaid's Tale and The Testaments, via Twitter
In the waning days of the turbulent 1970s, in the wake of unsolved child-killings that have shocked Detroit, the lives of several residents are drawn together with tragic consequences.
There is Hannah, wife of a prominent local businessman, who has begun an affair with a darkly charismatic stranger whose identity remains elusive; Mikey, a canny street hustler who finds himself on a chilling mission to rectify injustice; and the serial killer known as Babysitter, an enigmatic and terrifying figure at the periphery of elite Detroit. As Babysitter continues his rampage of abductions and killings, these individuals intersect with one another in startling and unexpected ways.
Suspenseful, brilliantly orchestrated, and engrossing, Babysitter is a starkly narrated exploration of the riskiness of pursuing alternate lives, calling into question how far we are willing to go to protect those whom we cherish most. In its scathing indictment of corrupt politics, unexamined racism, and the enabling of sexual predation in America, Babysitter is a thrilling work of contemporary fiction.
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About the Author-
  • JOYCE CAROL OATES is a recipient of the National Humanities Medal, the National Book Critics Circle Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, the National Book Award, and the 2019 Jerusalem Prize for Lifetime Achievement, and has been nominated several times for the Pulitzer Prize. She has written some of the most enduring fiction of our time, including the national best sellers We Were the Mulvaneys; Blonde; and the New York Times best seller The Falls, which won the 2005 Prix Femina. In 2020 she was awarded the Cino Del Duca World Prize for Literature. She is the Roger S. Berlind ’52 Distinguished Professor of the Humanities emerita at Princeton University and has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978.
Reviews-
  • Library Journal

    March 1, 2022

    A criminal dubbed Babysitter is abducting and killing children in the affluent suburbs of late 1970s Detroit, and his path soon crosses with two other key characters. Local businessman's wife Hannah is having an affair with a dashing, enigmatic stranger, while street-hustling Mikey is on a surprising quest for justice. Oates in haute thriller mode, examining the risky plunge into an alternate life within the context of police corruption, deep-seated racism, and a world that facilitates sexual predation.

    Copyright 2022 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    May 15, 2022
    In the late 1970s, in the suburbs of Detroit, someone was abducting and murdering young children. Although there were a few suspects at the time, the killer, who was sometimes called the Babysitter, has never been identified. It is against this backdrop of fear and uncertainty that Oates sets her latest novel, which is based on a short story she published in 2005. Hannah Jarrett, a married mother, is tormented by her decision to follow up on a flirtation with a man she barely knows (even his name is a mystery to her). As she becomes increasingly obsessed with the man, and as her family falls apart around her, Hannah wonders if it's possible he could be the killer. The novel eludes easy classification. It most resembles a psychological thriller, but with dark, torturous, bloody undercurrents running through it. Oates risks losing squeamish readers here, but that's hardly a surprise from an author who has long embraced edgy subject matter. Also unsurprising is the quality of the writing: carefully constructed sentences, pitch-perfect dialogue, and a central character who is simultaneously sympathetic and repellent. An outstanding novel from a true modern master who jumps across genres with unrivaled dexterity.

    COPYRIGHT(2022) Booklist, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    June 13, 2022
    In this polished yet soulless story from Oates (Extenuating Circumstances: Stories of Crime and Suspense), three people with varying agendas converge during the late 1970s as Detroit is racked by unsolved child murders. Bored, lonely suburban housewife Hannah Jarrett, emotionally closed off from her wealthy businessman husband and their two young children, is drawn into an abusive, humiliating affair with a man calling himself Y.K., a smarmy stranger she meets at a society fundraiser who no one can remember inviting. Y.K. also has a manipulative hold on Mikey Kushel, a victim of childhood abuse, and Mikey’s menial errands for Y.K. become increasingly strange and violent. Meanwhile, a serial killer of children called Babysitter at first stalks only Detroit’s inner city, until he widens his reach to the suburbs, shattering Hannah’s family’s sense of safety. Exquisite prose compensates only in part for characters with grating personalities who come across as mere shadows as they each careen along a collision course to disaster. This one’s only for Oates diehards. Agent: Warren Frazier, John Hawkins & Assoc.

  • Kirkus

    July 1, 2022
    In 1977 Detroit, a serial killer stalks the streets while an insecure housewife commits adultery with a dangerous stranger. Hannah Jarrett, 39, appears to want for nothing. Her husband, Wes, is an investment banker from a prominent local family. The couple has two young children, an impressive house in an affluent community, and a live-in housekeeper. However, Hannah believes that "if a woman is not desired, a woman does not exist," and since Wes has largely lost interest, it's a thrill when a man touches her wrist at a charity gala and asks, "Which one are you?" He reveals only his initials--Y.K.--and suggests they meet when he returns to town on business. Hannah assents but assumes Y.K. will forget her. Then, two weeks later, he telephones. She visits his hotel intending harmless flirtation; instead, he assaults her. Still, Hannah delights in the notion of having a lover, and the next time Y.K. calls, she comes running--a decision whose ripple effects prove cataclysmic. Meanwhile, a predator dubbed Babysitter terrorizes the county, abducting, raping, and murdering White kids and then publicly displaying their naked bodies. Though Wes believes Babysitter is a Black city-dweller and buys a gun in anticipation of a race war, Hannah fears Babysitter is someone closer to home. The book's languorous pacing feels at odds with its pulp underpinnings, but on the balance, Oates paints an unflinching portrait of 1970s upper-middle-class America, touching on issues of racism, classism, and institutional abuse while exploring society's tendency to value women solely in relation to the role they fill--be it wife, mother, or sexual object. A searing work of slow-burning domestic noir.

    COPYRIGHT(2022) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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A Novel
Joyce Carol Oates
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