The author, in many of her novels, has demonstrated a capacity to project the innermost feelings of the people she writes about. The Pursuit is definitely a study in one woman’s grasp of reality and how this affects her mother, and later her husband.
Abby is a reclusive young woman coming from the most traumatic of childhoods. She keeps to herself, afraid that contact with others will showcase her faults and drive them away. She dreams of coming upon a field with skeletons and a large skull, and a smaller one that she thinks of as the daddy and mommy skulls. Her mother and father disappeared one day leaving Abby to feel that they didn’t care for her and left to go live alone without her.
Not seeking companionship, Abby is surprised when a young man, Willem, seeks her out and eventually asks her to marry him. She does so with a good deal of trepidation. The day after the wedding, as Abby is on her way to the University she is attending, she gets off the bus she is riding on and into traffic. She is hit by the same bus she was on and sent to the hospital. Willem, in love with Abby, begins investigating whether the incident was an accident or done on purpose by his wife.
Oates sets up the rest of her novel as a completely mesmerizing look into what is the deep-seated trauma that engulfs Abby, how was it initiated, what caused it, and how to bring it to rest. The workings of her mind become bared for the reader, and it becomes impossible to set the book down before solutions are arrived at, or not arrived at. And, of course where her trauma began.
10/19 Paul Lane
PURSUIT by Joyce Carol Oates. Mysterious Press (October 1, 2019). ISBN 978-0802147912. 144p.