Wow. Joyce Carol Oates knows how to write a novella. I enjoyed every page of Black Water and didn't want it to end - partly because it was so good and partly because Oates reveals the inevitable in the first chapter - our protagonist Kelley is involved in a horrible accident and will die. After meeting a handsome senator at a 4th of July party, Kelley leaves with him to go to his hotel, only to end up at the bottom of a river. The book then teeters between her past and her present - outlining where she came from and what brought her to where she is now. The accident mirrors that of the Chappaquiddick incident - when a young girl was found dead inside of a sunken car driven by Senator Edward Kennedy. In Black Water, Joyce Carol Oates gives Mary Jo Kopechne a voice that utterly heartbreaking and impossible to forget.
Black Water is a powerful book - revealing the human truths of a 26-year-old idealistic young woman and a powerful, untrustworthy older man. The entire novella permeates with a sense of urgency - mostly because it is told in prolepsis - making it (for me) unputdownable.
How crucial for us to rehearse the future, in words. Never to doubt that you will live to utter them.Black Water was nominated for the 1993 Pulitzer Prize. It highlights themes of fate, vulnerability and the mutability of life. This book is both fascinating and terrifying. I am eager to discover more titles from Joyce Carol Oates.
Black Water was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in fiction in 1993.
Publisher: Penguin, 1992