In famed Oates style, this book encompasses the childhood and adolescence of Iris Courtney, a lily-white, calculating girl whose address depends upon her father's recent gambling wins or losses and a mood reliant upon her mother's blood alcohol level. Bonded by a secret to Jinx Fairchild, the African-American star of the basketball team, the narrative is epic in scope, encompassing everything from the Cuban missile crisis to Kennedy's assassination.
These minute details always make Oates writing seem multidimensional, which more than makes up for the wandering plots. Thematically, though, it is packed with issues to consider: violence in society, no matter what class; racial discrimination; power of sex over power of race.
The ending felt forced, like Oates needed to find a way to finish this statement she began with the first sentence. For such a purposeful, manipulative character like Iris, it didn't seem logical. Minor quibble for an otherwise well-written coming-of-age story in a tumultuous time.
3.8 out of 5.0 Cornwallis Rivers.