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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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Excerpts-
  • From the cover Do Not Disturb
    On the sixty-­first floor of the hotel tower he awaits her.
    No name for him that is likely to be a true name. Very little about him that is likely to be true. Enough for her to know—­he, him.
    She is the sole passenger in the elevator, which is a sleek glass cubicle rising rapidly and silently into the atrium as into the void.
    Below, the crowded hotel lobby sinks away. Beside her, open floors and railings fly downward.
    A sleek new way of elevating, so different from the larger, slower-­moving, cumbersome elevators of her childhood.
    In those elevators, often there were uniformed operators who wore gloves. In elevators like these, you are your own operator.
    Lingering in the elevator a faint aroma, is it cigar smoke?
    It is December 1977. Smoking in the public areas of private hotels has not yet been banned.
    She feels a thrill of vertigo, nausea. Cigar smoke as faint as memory. She shuts her eyes to steady herself.
    Her sleek Italian leather handbag, she carries not slung from her right wrist as usual but carried snug beneath her right arm, and steadied and supported by her left hand, for it is perceptibly heavier than usual.
    Still, the handbag is so positioned that its gleaming brass label shines outward—­Prada.
    By instinct, unconscious, vanity’s gesture even on this day—­Prada.
    Is this the final day of her life, or is this the final day of a life?
    Of course she has memorized the number: 6183.
    Could be a tattoo at her wrist. His claim on her.
    Claim. Doom. She is not a poet, she is not a person adroit or comfortable with words, yet these words seem to her soothing like smooth cool stones laid over the shuttered eyes of the dead to bring them peace.
    His room. In fact it’s a suite, two spacious rooms overlooking the Detroit River where he stays when he visits Detroit.
    Though it is possible that he has different rooms for different visitors. She would not know this, he has never confided in her.
    At the sixty-­first floor the cubicle stops with a hiss and a mild jolt. The glass door slides open, she has no choice but to step out. Something has been decided, she has no choice.
    Gripping the handbag beneath her arm. Has she no choice?
    Wondering is he awaiting her, near the elevator? Eager for her arrival?
    She doesn’t see anyone. In neither direction, any human figure.
    You can still turn back.
    If now, no one will know.
    Facing the row of elevators, a glass wall overlooking the riverfront, the river, a fierce white sun. A foreshortened view of Woodward Avenue far below, soundless traffic.
    Why isn’t clear. Why she has come here, risking so much.
    Never ask why. The challenge is the execution—­how.
    Making her way along a windowless corridor following the room numbers in their ascent: 6133, 6149, 6160 . . . So slowly do the numbers rise, she feels a thrill of relief, she will never arrive at 6183.
    Underfoot a thick plush carpet, as rosy as the interior of a lung. The far end of the corridor has dissolved. Closed doors to the horizon diminishing in size as they approach infinity.
    No reason for her to approach 6183 simply because the person awaiting her inside the room has summoned her, if she wishes she can turn back.
    . . . as if you’ve never been here.
    Never left home.
    Who would know? No one.
    Yet, she doesn’t turn back. Feels herself drawn forward inexorably.
    If you inhabit a riddle the only way to solve the...
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-
  • 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.

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Babysitter
A Novel
Joyce Carol Oates
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