It’s extremely bold of Oates to examine in this untidy, ultimately redemptive novel the impact of America’s corrupt police forces on a white family rather than a black one. Yet, at the same time, it’s her white characters’ entitled, reflexive racism that provides the novel’s most savage indictment of America’s culture wars.
This book is absorbing, but it is also very long. Joyce Carol Oates has a wide vocabulary but the word “economy” doesn’t feature in it. Scenes are prolonged for paragraphs after their point has been made. Though she writes mostly in short sentences, they pile up one after the other, and it will be a very patient and dutiful reader who doesn’t yield to the temptation of skipping or just letting the eye flick over a page or two.