“A Garden of Earthly Delights” by Joyce Carol Oates
While I can’t speak for the original version, the book I just finished reading was a wonder — a poignant and driving account of the life of Clara, the daughter of migrant farm workers, as she grows from a young girl of humble beginnings to a mother and woman of wealth.
Previously, I’d read and enjoyed Oates’ “The Gravedigger’s Daughter,” and while I found there to be several remarkable similarities between this book and that one, both stand alone as simply darn good reads full of moments that make you smile, moments that makes you gasp, and more than once where your eyes will have gone wide without even your realization. Ms. Oates is a masterful writer, and “A Garden of Earthly Delights” doesn’t disappoint. Ms. Oates keeps her characters fresh and interesting by not having them be too perfect, or heck – even the slightest bit perfect. Clara makes several choices that will astonish the reader, and the final scenes of the book will take a character you thought you knew into an entire different direction.
It’s a mature book about a woman doing what she has to do to get by, and the effect that her choices have on those around her – family and friends and lovers. There were moments where I was simply spellbound. I’ll be re-reading this book periodically throughout the rest of my life, I can already tell.