Category Archives: Joyce Carol Oates

Review: Pursuit by Joyce Carol Oates

Title: Pursuit by Joyce Carol Oates
Publisher: Mysterious Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 144 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


As a child, Abby had the same recurring nightmare night after night, in which she wandered through a field ridden with human skulls and bones. Now an adult, Abby thinks she’s outgrown her demons, until, the evening before her wedding, the terrible dream returns and forces her to confront the dark secrets from her past she has kept from her new husband, Willem. The following day—less than 24 hours after exchanging vows—Abby steps out into traffic. As his wife lies in her hospital bed, sleeping in fits and starts, Willem tries to determine whether this was an absentminded accident or a premeditated plunge, and he quickly discovers a mysterious set of clues about what his wife might be hiding. Why, for example is there a rash-like red mark circling her wrist? What does she dream about that causes her to wake from the sound of her own screams?

Slowly, Abby begins to open up to her husband, revealing to him what she has never shared with anyone before—the story of a terrified mother; a jealous, drug addled father; and a daughter’s terrifying captivity.

With a suspenseful, alternating narrative that travels between the present and Abby’s tortured childhood, The Pursuit is a meticulously crafted, deeply disquieting tale that showcases Oates’s masterful storytelling.


Pursuit by Joyce Carol Oates is a dark and gritty mystery.

Twenty year old Abby has just been married to Willem for one day when she walks in front of a bus. Her family history is murky and she haunted by terrible dreams.  Abby does not talk much about her past but she does divulge she was raised by her Aunt Traci after her parents abandoned her. Willem desperately wants to help his wife, but will Abby finally reveal the secrets that have long haunted her?

The story gets off to a bit of a convoluted, slow start but once the perspective switches to Abby’s parents, the pacing picks up.  Their chapters depict a horrifying portrait of a marriage gone terribly wrong following Abby’s father Lew’s return from Iraq.  Both Lew and Abby’s mom Nicola have changed during their time apart and their already troubled marriage falls apart shortly after their reunion.  The situation continues to worsen and Nicola is relieved when Lew leaves town. Believing she and Abby are safe, Nicola is completely unprepared for what happens next. In the aftermath, Abby goes to live with her Aunt Traci who has plenty of problems of her own. After a brief time living in the family’s dilapidated house in the country, Abby’s trauma plays out again and again through her nightmares.

Pursuit is a short but powerful novel with a storyline that deals with PTSD and domestic violence. Abby is a bit of an ethereal character but Lew and Nicola are vividly developed characters.  The scenes with Lew are disturbingly realistic and shockingly violent. Joyce Carol Oates brings this chilling novel to an abrupt but completely satisfying conclusion. An absolutely brilliant mystery that I highly recommend to fans of the genre.

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Filed under Contemporary, Joyce Carol Oates, Mysterious Press, Mystery, Pursuit, Rated B, Review, Suspense