Title: The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares
Author: Joyce Carol Oates
Release Date: November 1, 2011
Publisher: Mysterious Press
Genre: Short Stories, Literary Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
Joyce Carol Oates once again proves herself to be a master storyteller in these six stories of suspense, horror, and thrills.
While I’m not usually a fan of short stories, I have found that Joyce Carol Oates’ collections are not to be missed. She has the ability to craft an entire novel’s worth of description, exposition, and character development in just a few pages, and it’s absolutely marvelous to witness. Therefore, when I discovered she had a new collection of suspense tales releasing from Mysterious Press, I was eager to get my hands on The Corn Maiden.
The titular story is the most memorable one, mostly because it takes up almost half the book’s length. It is a novella, rather than a short story. The Corn Maiden tells the story of an eleven-year-old girl named Marissa, who is taken by Jude, an older girl who believes Marissa must be sacrificed according to an old legend. Her mother Leah has her own demons to face as she frantically searches for her daughter. Mothers will find this story especially disturbing, as readers can feel Leah’s fear and regret. “If only…” she says, thinking she may have been able to prevent Marissa’s disappearance if she had done something differently.
Like The Corn Maiden, all the stories in this collection are impeccably plotted and precisely written. Oates wields her pen like a razor, cutting and slashing as necessary in order to convey the horrors of a man visited by a vengeful girl or a twin appalled by his identical brother. Each of these tales is suspenseful and keeps the reader hooked from beginning to end. They all have a sense of dread surrounding them, and Oates writes their atmospheres perfectly. This is the perfect chilling read for the Halloween season of monsters and frights.
There’s a reason Joyce Carol Oates is considered one of the masters of the short story form, and every one of them is on display in The Corn Maiden. It’s a well curated collection of mysterious and thrilling stories that readers will want to read from beginning to end. If you’re in the mood for chills, but don’t feel like committing to an entire book, this is definitely a great choice.