Joyce Carol Oates revised and rewrote The Garden of Earthly Delights; this new version was just published in 2003 under the Modern Library 20th century rediscovered. (This was the author's second novel originally published in 1966.)
The novel follows the life of Clara Walpole, born in a ditch to migrant workers during the Great Depression. She grows up moving from camp to camp, picking when children are allowed to pick, and going to school when required. There are four important men in her life, and no important women.
There's her father. He loves Clara, but not her brothers, and not her mother. Her mother is worn out and dies leaving Clara to take care of her brothers. Her father brings Nancy into the household. He needs to have a woman. Clara learns about incest when her friend Rosalie's father is taken by the KKK. Terror reigns in the camp. The men think that they can do nothing, perhaps because they think it is a just punishment for getting his daughter pregnant, or perhaps because they fear the Klan.
Shortly after that incident, Clara goes into town and meets Lowry, who takes her away with him. Joyce Carol Oates does the unexpected. She makes Lowry a decent sort of chap. Lowry sets Clara up in his home town. He gets her a job, and a place to stay. Lowry tells Clara that she needs to lie; she must tell everyone that she is sixteen years old. Otherwise, she will end up in an orphanage. Of course Clara is in love.
Then there is Revere, both wealthy and married. And finally there is Clara's son, Swan.
Interwoven with these men are four Claras. There is Clara the child, Clara the teenager, Clara the woman, and finally, Clara as worn out as her mother was when she died.
I love reading Joyce Carol Oates. Although she is unique, sometimes she reminds me of Steinbeck, and sometime she reminds me of Stephen King. But, in The Garden of Earthly Delights, she reminds me of Barbara Kingsolver. If you enjoy great writing, and a terrific story, you will enjoy this book.
I highly recommend The Garden of Earthly Delights.