Daddy Love by Joyce Carol Oates
- Method of Obtaining: I received my copy from the publisher.
- Published by: Mysterious Press
- Release Date: 1/8/2013
Dinah Whitcomb seemingly has everything. A loving and successful husband, and a smart, precocious young son named Robbie. One day, their worlds are shattered when Dinah is attacked and Robbie is taken in a mall parking lot. Dinah, injured, attempts to follow, but is run over by the kidnapper’s van, mangling her body nearly beyond repair.
The kidnapper, a part-time Preacher named Chester Cash, calls himself Daddy Love, as he has abducted, tortured, and raped several young boys into being his lover and as well as his ‘son’. He confines Robbie in a device called an Wooden Maiden, in essence a small coffin, and renamed him ‘Gideon’. Daddy Love slowly brainwashes ‘Gideon’ into believing that he is Daddy Love’s real son, and any time the boy resists or rebels it is met with punishment beyond his wildest nightmares.
As Dinah recovers from her wounds, her world and her marriage struggle to exist every day. Though it seems hopeless, she keeps a flicker of hope alive that her son is still alive.
As Robbie grows older, he becomes more aware of just how monstrous Daddy Love truly is. Though as a small boy he as terrified of what might happen if he disobeyed Daddy Love, Robbie begins to realize that the longer he stays in the home of this demon, the greater chance he’ll end up like Daddy Love’s other ‘sons’ who were never heard from again. Somewhere within this tortured young boy lies a spark of rebellion…and soon he sees just what lengths he must go to in order to have any chance at survival.
- It’s written by Joyce Carol Oates and I figured it was time I read something written by her.
In the interest of full disclosure, I really had to work myself up to reading Daddy Love by Joyce Carol Oates. What finally tipped me over the edge into trying it was (definitely not the few reviews I read) the smaller size of the book.
I’ve tried to read Joyce Carol Oates before. I failed at reading Blonde and, although I’d heard her writing is exquisite, I struggled with getting myself to a place where I could try again. So when I saw she had written a book that was less than 300 pages I thought… here we go, and picked it up. Then I put it down when I saw what it was about. Then I picked it up again because.. “never judge a book by its cover” right? You get the picture.
So, contrary to what many reviews say, this book is not entirely from the perspective of “Daddy Love,” nor does it gratuitously detail obscene and horrible acts committed. Rather, it’s the story of desperation, resilience, depravity, and how all three of those things come together to show that sometimes the “happy ending” involves some not so happy results.
Daddy Love is told from a few different viewpoints. The viewpoint of Dinah, the mother of young Robbie; the viewpoint of “Daddy Love,” the man who abducts Robbie, the viewpoint of “Gideon,” the young Robbie renamed. Dinah made me feel complete and total despair; Daddy Love made me feel like I needed to shower – repeatedly; Gideon made me weep. This book reminded me quite a bit of Emma Donoghue’s Room. I had to guard myself emotionally a few times. Was it worth it? Honestly, I don’t know how to say it was other than to say that everything is written for a purpose. With the horrors that happen today we struggle to figure out why someone would do the things they do and who better than the authors to give us a glimpse into the mind of just one person in order to allow us to understand how that person was molded.
I was blown away by the quality of writing here. There’s a reason Joyce Carol Oates has the place she holds in the literary world. Daddy Love was a thought-provoking, bone-chilling novel that I’ll be thinking about in the days and months to come.
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