My Heart Laid Bare

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Dutton, 1998 - Fiction - 531 pages
9 Reviews
Mythic in scope, ballad-like in the telling, this strikingly original historical novel represents a fresh and exciting achievement for an American master

Through a layering of historical events beginning in Colonial times and ending in the 1930s, Joyce Carol Oates has created a new American epic in this sweeping chronicle of the fortunes and misfortunes of a family of enterprising and ingenious confidence artists.

"Honor is the subject of my story/for God is theirs; and the Game, ours". So writes the infamous 19th century con man Abraham Licht in his memoir, My Heart Laid Bare, detailing his personal philosophy and his elaborate, highly profitable deceptions. Like a biblical patriarch, Abraham sees his eternity in his children: Thurston and Harwood, the sons who in emulating their father are led to murder; beautiful Millicent, easily her father's equal in the confidence game, but defying his absolute control; Elisha, the adopted son who is Abraham's true heir in talent and ambition -- banished from his father's affections, Elisha will strike out on his own to become a controversial Black leader in the 1920s.

In 1891, Abraham establishes his clan on the marshy grounds of a deconsecrated church in rural New York. Old Muirkirk is the site of a lost colony of Dutch settlers who vanished into the swamp without a trace in the 1640s. More than a century later, a notorious outlaw and suspected murderess, alias "Sarah Licht", was run to ground and executed in the very place where Abraham now tutors his children on how to avoid a similar fate.

As the moral consequences of crimes and transgressions resonate through the centuries, Joyce Carol Oates constructs a wholly original andcompelling new concept of American history -- and in the process creates her finest work to date.

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Review: My Heart Laid Bare (The Gothic Saga #4)

User Review  - Marianne Wassmer - Goodreads

Another great read by Joyce Carol Oates, easily my favorite author. Dazzling, complex and gothic. Read full review

Review: My Heart Laid Bare (The Gothic Saga #4)

User Review  - Charles M. - Goodreads

This popular author really takes a sidestep from her regular plots, in decsribing the swindling life of Abraham Licht, as he moves across 19th century America going through his many scams. Very different for Oates! Read full review


The Princess Who Died in Old Muirkirk I
Midnight Sun
A Bird in a Gilded Cage

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About the author (1998)

Joyce Carol Oates was born in 1938 in Upstate, New York. She attended Syracuse University and graduated as Valedictorian. She then attended University of Wisconsin where she earned an M. A. By the time she was 47 years old, she had published at least that many separate books, including 16 full-length novels and more than a dozen collections of short stories. Some of her works were done under the pseudonym Rosamund Smith. She has also written numerous poems collected in several volumes, at least three plays, many critical essays, and articles and reviews on various subjects while fulfilling her obligations as a professor of English at the University of Windsor, where with her husband Raymond Smith she edited the Ontario Review, which the couple has continued since moving to Princeton in 1978. She has earned a reputation as indubitably one of our most prolific writers and very likely one of our best. Her fiction alone demonstrates considerable variety, ranging from direct naturalism to complex experiments in form. However, what chiefly makes her work her own is a quality of psychological realism, an uncanny ability to bring to the surface an underlying sense of foreboding or a threat of violence that seems to lurk just around the corner from the everyday domestic lives she depicts so realistically. Her first six novels, including Them (1969), which won the National Book Award, express these qualities in varying ways. she is also the recipient of an NEA grant, a Guggenheim fellowship, the PEN/Malamud Lifetime Achievement Award, and the F. Scott Fitzgerald Award for Lifetime Achievement in American Literature. Her title Give Me Your Heart made the New York Times Best seller list for 2011.

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