I finished Joyce Carol Oates’ After the Wreck, I Picked Myself Up, Spread My Wings, and Flew Away three or four days ago, but I’ve been putting off this review because my feelings about this book are complicated. A quote from The West Wing has been running through my mind:
Well, first of all, let’s not kid ourselves. The Reykjavik Symphony can play. These guys have some serious game.
(I really loved the first few seasons of that show, by the way. I disagreed with the politics fairly frequently, but oh, I loved it!)
President Bartlet pretty much summed up my thoughts about Joyce Carol Oates right there. The woman can write. I hated the poem by her I read in junior high, mind you, but it took me quite a while to grow up enough to appreciate and admire writing that I didn’t find personally enjoyable. (“Death of a Salesman” did a lot for me in that respect–props to Arthur Miller.) After the Wreck isn’t precisely my cup of tea, either topically OR stylistically, but it was incredibly well done. Jenna’s downward spiral after surviving the car accident that killed her mother feels all too believable, even if the parent in me was tearing her hair out over it, and the stream-of-consciousness-ish style worked in a way few others would have. Some characters were far more developed than others, but that made sense with Jenna as the narrator. Crow, as the older boy who helps Jenna deal with her trauma, seemed somewhat improbable, but he certainly wasn’t impossible. It ended rather abruptly for me, but that worked in context, I think.
Bottom line? Ultimately, this wasn’t my thing, but it was an excellent novel nonetheless. If it is your thing, don’t miss it.