Babysitter
by Oates, Joyce Carol






"In the waning days of the 1970s, the lives of several residents of Detroit and its affluent white suburbs are drawn together following the disappearance of yet another child. Hannah, a wife and mother, begins an affair with a darkly charismatic stranger; Mikey, a young street hustler, finds himself on an unexpected mission to rectify injustice; and then there's the child serial killer known as Babysitter, an enigmatic and elusive figure at the periphery of elite Detroit, who has always been impossible to identify and immune to retribution. As Babysitter continues to strike-sending the city and its surroundings into pandemonium-these characters intersect, jeopardize one another, and are pushed to their limits. Suspenseful, brilliant, and wholly engrossing, Babysitter asks what we would risk for a chance at a new life, and how to protect all we cherish most. A scathing indictment of the corrupt politics, unexamined racism, and sexual predation in America, Babysitter is a thrilling novel and an absolute force"-





JOYCE CAROL OATES is a recipient of the National Humanities Medal, the National Book Critics Circle Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, the National Book Award, and the 2019 Jerusalem Prize for Lifetime Achievement, and has been nominated several times for the Pulitzer Prize. She has written some of the most enduring fiction of our time, including the national best sellers We Were the Mulvaneys; Blonde; and the New York Times best seller The Falls, which won the 2005 Prix Femina. In 2020 she was awarded the Cino Del Duca World Prize for Literature. She is the Roger S. Berlind '52 Distinguished Professor of the Humanities emerita at Princeton University and has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978.





*Starred Review* In the late 1970s, in the suburbs of Detroit, someone was abducting and murdering young children. Although there were a few suspects at the time, the killer, who was sometimes called the Babysitter, has never been identified. It is against this backdrop of fear and uncertainty that Oates sets her latest novel, which is based on a short story she published in 2005. Hannah Jarrett, a married mother, is tormented by her decision to follow up on a flirtation with a man she barely knows (even his name is a mystery to her). As she becomes increasingly obsessed with the man, and as her family falls apart around her, Hannah wonders if it's possible he could be the killer. The novel eludes easy classification. It most resembles a psychological thriller, but with dark, torturous, bloody undercurrents running through it. Oates risks losing squeamish readers here, but that's hardly a surprise from an author who has long embraced edgy subject matter. Also unsurprising is the quality of the writing: carefully constructed sentences, pitch-perfect dialogue, and a central character who is simultaneously sympathetic and repellent. An outstanding novel from a true modern master who jumps across genres with unrivaled dexterity. Copyright 2022 Booklist Reviews.





*Starred Review* In the late 1970s, in the suburbs of Detroit, someone was abducting and murdering young children. Although there were a few suspects at the time, the killer, who was sometimes called the Babysitter, has never been identified. It is against this backdrop of fear and uncertainty that Oates sets her latest novel, which is based on a short story she published in 2005. Hannah Jarrett, a married mother, is tormented by her decision to follow up on a flirtation with a man she barely knows (even his name is a mystery to her). As she becomes increasingly obsessed with the man, and as her family falls apart around her, Hannah wonders if it's possible he could be the killer. The novel eludes easy classification. It most resembles a psychological thriller, but with dark, torturous, bloody undercurrents running through it. Oates risks losing squeamish readers here, but that's hardly a surprise from an author who has long embraced edgy subject matter. Also unsurprising is the quality of the writing: carefully constructed sentences, pitch-perfect dialogue, and a central character who is simultaneously sympathetic and repellent. An outstanding novel from a true modern master who jumps across genres with unrivaled dexterity. Copyright 2022 Booklist Reviews.





In 1977 Detroit, a serial killer stalks the streets while an insecure housewife commits adultery with a dangerous stranger. Hannah Jarrett, 39, appears to want for nothing. Her husband, Wes, is an investment banker from a prominent local family. The couple has two young children, an impressive house in an affluent community, and a live-in housekeeper. However, Hannah believes that "if a woman is not desired, a woman does not exist," and since Wes has largely lost interest, it's a thrill when a man touches her wrist at a charity gala and asks, "Which one are you?" He reveals only his initials-Y.K.-and suggests they meet when he returns to town on business. Hannah assents but assumes Y.K. will forget her. Then, two weeks later, he telephones. She visits his hotel intending harmless flirtation; instead, he assaults her. Still, Hannah delights in the notion of having a lover, and the next time Y.K. calls, she comes running-a decision whose ripple effects prove cataclysmic. Meanwhile, a predator dubbed Babysitter terrorizes the county, abducting, raping, and murdering White kids and then publicly displaying their naked bodies. Though Wes believes Babysitter is a Black city-dweller and buys a gun in anticipation of a race war, Hannah fears Babysitter is someone closer to home. The book's languorous pacing feels at odds with its pulp underpinnings, but on the balance, Oates paints an unflinching portrait of 1970s upper-middle-class America, touching on issues of racism, classism, and institutional abuse while exploring society's tendency to value women solely in relation to the role they fill-be it wife, mother, or sexual object. A searing work of slow-burning domestic noir. Copyright Kirkus 2022 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.





Do Not Disturb
On the sixty-­first floor of the hotel tower he awaits her.
No name for him that is likely to be a true name. Very little about him that is likely to be true. Enough for her to know-­he, him.
She is the sole passenger in the elevator, which is a sleek glass cubicle rising rapidly and silently into the atrium as into the void.
Below, the crowded hotel lobby sinks away. Beside her, open floors and railings fly downward.
A sleek new way of elevating, so different from the larger, slower-­moving, cumbersome elevators of her childhood.
In those elevators, often there were uniformed operators who wore gloves. In elevators like these, you are your own operator.
Lingering in the elevator a faint aroma, is it cigar smoke?
It is December 1977. Smoking in the public areas of private hotels has not yet been banned.
She feels a thrill of vertigo, nausea. Cigar smoke as faint as memory. She shuts her eyes to steady herself.
Her sleek Italian leather handbag, she carries not slung from her right wrist as usual but carried snug beneath her right arm, and steadied and supported by her left hand, for it is perceptibly heavier than usual.
Still, the handbag is so positioned that its gleaming brass label shines outward-­Prada.
By instinct, unconscious, vanity's gesture even on this day-­Prada.
Is this the final day of her life, or is this the final day of a life?
Of course she has memorized the number: 6183.
Could be a tattoo at her wrist. His claim on her.
Claim. Doom. She is not a poet, she is not a person adroit or comfortable with words, yet these words seem to her soothing like smooth cool stones laid over the shuttered eyes of the dead to bring them peace.
His room. In fact it's a suite, two spacious rooms overlooking the Detroit River where he stays when he visits Detroit.
Though it is possible that he has different rooms for different visitors. She would not know this, he has never confided in her.
At the sixty-­first floor the cubicle stops with a hiss and a mild jolt. The glass door slides open, she has no choice but to step out. Something has been decided, she has no choice.
Gripping the handbag beneath her arm. Has she no choice?
Wondering is he awaiting her, near the elevator? Eager for her arrival?
She doesn't see anyone. In neither direction, any human figure.
You can still turn back.
If now, no one will know.
Facing the row of elevators, a glass wall overlooking the riverfront, the river, a fierce white sun. A foreshortened view of Woodward Avenue far below, soundless traffic.
Why isn't clear. Why she has come here, risking so much.
Never ask why. The challenge is the execution-­how.
Making her way along a windowless corridor following the room numbers in their ascent: 6133, 6149, 6160 . . . So slowly do the numbers rise, she feels a thrill of relief, she will never arrive at 6183.
Underfoot a thick plush carpet, as rosy as the interior of a lung. The far end of the corridor has dissolved. Closed doors to the horizon diminishing in size as they approach infinity.
No reason for her to approach 6183 simply because the person awaiting her inside the room has summoned her, if she wishes she can turn back.
. . . as if you've never been here.
Never left home.
Who would know? No one.
Yet, she doesn't turn back. Feels herself drawn forward inexorably.
If you inhabit a riddle the only way to solve the riddle is to push forward to the end.
As the sleek glass cubicle ascended swiftly and unhesitatingly to the sixty-­first floor, so she makes her way to the suite that is his.
A faint odor of cigar smoke in her hair, in her nostrils that pinch with nausea so remote as to be merely residual, memory.
What is she wearing? A costume she has chosen with care, white linen is always discreet, a silk shirt, red silk Dior scarf gaily at her throat.
Elegantly impractical high heels, Saint Laurent kidskin sinking into the carpet. If she must suddenly turn and run, run for her life, the tight-­fitting shoes and the carpet will impede her.
One of those dreams in which she is a child again. She runs, runs. Her feet sink into something like sand, soft-­seeming but not soft.
Never making any progress. Each time she has run.
Each time, he looms behind her. Daddy's strong hands threaten to seize her, lift her by her ribs . . .
A man's claim, a doom.
The room numbers accelerate. It is a fact of life to which we never quite adjust ourselves, how out there moves at its allotted speed, no matter our wishes in here.
Approaching 6183 she begins to shiver. It is always the same, she has been here before, that vibrating sensation of a vehicle that is being driven too fast, dangerously fast, in blinding rain, through deep puddles lifting like waves rushing over the windshields.
The nape of her neck rests against a very cold stainless steel table, there is a drain just beneath. Her eyes stare open, unseeing. Only when your eyes are unseeing do you see all.
Yet, she presses on. In the Saint Laurent heels it is still December 1977, she has not yet entered the room for the final time. She is determined that she will come to the end of the riddle.
The brass plaque on the doorframe is 6183, each time it has been 6183.
And the sign hanging from the doorknob, scripted silver letters on lacquered black-­the identical warning sign:
privacy please!
do not disturb
I Am
I am a beautiful woman, I have a right to be loved.
I am a desirable woman, I have a right to desire.
When We Died
When we died, our (beautiful) (naked) bodies became inert matter.
When we died, our final, strangled screams were trapped in our throats.
(It would be said that, if you lay beside us in death and if you put your ear to our throats, and if you were worthy, you could hear a faint echo of this final scream.)
When we died, our torment ended. For mercy awaits us all.
When we died, none of you who had begat us were anywhere near.
When we died, we died alone, in terror. Because you were nowhere near.
When we died, ask yourself why did you have children if you don't love us.
Ask why.
But when we died, our bodies were prepared lovingly for death as none of you would have prepared us.
When we died, our bodies were carefully bathed, the smallest bits of dirt removed from every crevice of our bodies and from beneath our (broken) fingernails, and the fingernails cut with cuticle scissors, rounded and even; as our hair was washed with a gentle shampoo, combed and neatly parted in such a way to suggest that whoever had so tenderly groomed us postmortem had not known us "in life."
When our bodies were cleansed and as pure as our souls, we were lovingly "memorialized": photographed.
Where the human eye would betray us and soon forget us, the Eye of the Camera would render us immortal.






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