My Heart Laid Bare

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Dutton, 1998 - Fiction - 531 pages
1 Review
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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User Review  - LauraJWRyan - LibraryThing

My Heart Laid Bare is a creation from an epic imagination—what a beautiful thing for a writer to enjoy, especially to use it to produce something so grand is a labor of love. Joyce Carol Oates is ... Read full review

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User Review  - libraryhermit - LibraryThing

What happens if there is a father of 7 children who gives them all quality time and ballet lessons and music lessons, and says that he loves each equally, but just happens to be one of the most ... 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 on June 16, 1938 in Lockport, New York. She received a bachelor's degree in English from Syracuse University and a master's degree in English from the University of Wisconsin. She is the author of numerous novels and collections of short stories. Her works include We Were the Mulvaneys, Blonde, Bellefleur, You Must Remember This, Because It Is Bitter, Because It Is My Heart, Solstice, Marya : A Life, and Give Me Your Heart. She has received numerous awards including the National Book Award for Them, the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction, and the F. Scott Fitzgerald Award for Lifetime Achievement in American Literature. She was a finalist for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction with her title Lovely, Dark, Deep. She also wrote a series of suspense novels under the pseudonym Rosamond Smith. In 2015, her novel The Accursed became listed as a bestseller on the iBooks chart. She worked as a professor of English at the University of Windsor, before becoming the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of Humanities at Princeton University. She and her late husband Raymond J. Smith operated a small press and published a literary magazine, The Ontario Review.

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