Dinah is out with her five-year old son Robbie when he is snatched: the rest of the book follows the life of Robbie with `Daddy Love' focusing on him as first a five year old child and then as an eleven year old.
This is a book which should definitely come with a warning, especially for parents of young children - it's dark and nasty and brutal, and is often a difficult (as it should be) book to read. Oates is a highly-intelligent writer and she doesn't pull any punches here, but the unredeeming cruelty of the story, in both physical and psychological terms, does make this a hard read.
So definitely not a book to while away your lighter moments - this is unflinching, unapologetic in that it doesn't strive to make excuses or `understand' what makes a paedophile and rapist the sadist that he is.
This is, mercifully, a fairly short book and one which is difficult to put down in a twisted kind of way. And we're left haunted by the worry of what will become of Robbie after his early life...
So this is hard-hitting and intelligent fiction, but a book which should be approached with caution by sensitive readers.
(This review is from an ARC courtesy of the publisher).
on 14 February 2013
When I read the synopsis I was reluctant to read this novel, afraid that it would be too distressing. It's a measure of how much I admire - and trust - Joyce Carol Oates that I went ahead and read it anyway. And I'm glad I did, beacause although it is undoubtedly a disturbing book - perhaps too much so for some people - I also found it a very rewarding and satisfying read. Oates writes with a rare psychological insight, and creates characters that feel painfully human, but also odd and unique. Oates always has the power to surprise me in some way, her books always have something interesting to offer.
This could have been a gratuitously unpleasant book, but it isn't. I found it moving, thought-provoking, positively heartbreaking at times, but somehow, by the end of it, for reasons that I don't entirely understand, I felt glad that I'd been on this dark, twisted journey.
on 23 February 2013
Dinah Whitcomb is out shopping at the mall with her five year old son Robbie when she realises she can’t find the family car. In a bit of a panic, she hunts for the car only for something far worse to happen. She is attacked by a man with a hammer who hits her over the head. Her son is abducted and when she chases the van in which his captor is driving she is run over, her body and face badly mutilated. The physical pain of her injuries is nothing compared to the horrifying loss of her son.
Chester Cash is a charismatic and attractive man, with long flowing hair and a well toned, muscular body. Ladies like Chester and Chester knows how to use that to his advantage. Men like him to, inviting him over to drink beer and eat barbeque, but Chester is not attracted to men or women – he likes young boys and what he likes, he takes. Chester Cash is ‘Daddy Love’. Chester likes them young but when the boys start to grow he begins to lose interest and the boys lose their lives. Chester Cash is also a preacher with the ironically named ‘Church of Abiding Hope’ and he's the last person his congregation and neighbours would ever suspect of being a predatory paedophile and child killer.
In Daddy Love’s house Robbie is no more; renamed as Gideon and told that his parents didn’t want him, that they gave him away and that his mother was a bad mother because she smoked. Gideon is now Daddy Love’s ‘son’ and is ‘trained’ like a dog. Good behaviour is praised, bad behaviour is punished, instantly and painfully. Gideon doesn’t know what to believe but he knows he’ll be punished and so he does what he’s told to. Meanwhile his parents suffer his loss and Cash introduces Gideon to his community as his 'son'.
Is it OK to say I ‘enjoyed’ this book? I’m sure many would shudder at the idea of such a thing but if you’re not familiar with the writing of Joyce Carol Oates, then it’s understandable that you might think it impossible to enjoy the skill of the writing whilst being repelled by the subject but that’s how the book is. Oates is such an outstanding writer that she’s almost excused from the usual taboos of what can and cannot be written about. The book does tell of horrifying abuse but it never lingers on the torments of the boy and his parents, it never plays the physical and sexual abuse for any kind of sick titillation or leaves the reader feeling a bit ‘icky’ or contaminated by what they’ve read. The worst of Cash’s behaviour is delivered to the page in a matter of fact, straight down the line way that doesn’t leave room for self-doubt in the reader. This ‘stuff’ happens – not writing or reading about it won’t stop that.
This is not an easy read and not something I can recommend to every reader. I think parents – especially the parents of young children – will probably find this just too raw and painful to read and they might prefer to just not be exposed to this book. Parents or not, readers will have to witness horrifying abuse in the pages of ‘Daddy Love’. But if you’re a fan of Joyce Carol Oates, you probably know already that she can write on any topic, no matter how abhorrent and leave you grateful for the insight she offers.
Five-year-old Robbie is abducted in a car park, and his mother badly injured when she tries to go after the abductor's car. The abductor himself, who insists on being called "Daddy Love", is a serial abductor; previous children have been disposed of when they reach an age when they are no longer of use to him. This is Robbie's story.
This book makes for very uncomfortable reading. Maybe it's because I wasn't expecting the abducted child to be sexually abused and treated so brutally I don't know, but it gave me an odd, voyeuristic feeling; almost as though I shouldn't be reading it (although this had nothing to do with prudishness). Details are not graphic, but then they don't need to be; the reader is given enough to enable his imagination to do the rest. Having said that, the narrative is gripping, and I certainly wouldn't have been able to give up on it, even had I wanted to.
I'm still trying to decide how I feel about this novel. On the one hand, it is undoubtedly a riveting read; on the other, the subject is an upsetting one, and the writing itself I found strangely disjointed; odd, I thought, from such a distingished writer. Would I recommend it? I'm not sure. I'm glad I read it, but wouldn't give it as a present. But if you want a gripping novel, and have a strong stomach, then it might be for you. Three-and-a-half stars.
on 13 March 2013
I'm a big reader but since having my son I can't seem to find the time or the inclination to read, this book changed all that. I devoured it in two days & despite its disturbing content (which is handled very well) thoroughly enjoyed it. I've already recommended it to friends.
JCO is a fantastic writer who gets behind the facade of her characters & really brings them to life. You can feel the pain, fear & desperation of the characters as they struggle with their demons.
on 27 March 2013
Ms Oates is by far the best writer of her generation and she never disappoints. This novel encompasses her trademark stream of consciousness style and her razor sharp observations. She dares to confront those aspects of the human psyche that the rest of us are too cowardly to face.
on 13 February 2013
I have read a negative review in a US newspaper's book pages, stating it was a relentlessly gloomy account of the graphic horror of child abduction and abuse. Whilst the book is undoubtedly all this, it is also - this time - well written from a writer who is so prolific that she sometimes loses the plot a little. Joyce Carol Oates is one of my favourite writers and so I try to read everything she has produced and certainly all new releases. Here I dared not risk purchasing at full price, and so jumped at the opportunity of a surprisingly high Kindle discount. (I must say that the opening chapter seems to have something wrong with it, as if an editor has forgotten to delete some passages which are repeated, but not in a 'good' way as JCO sometimes does for emphasis or to depict a confused mind. It seems that in places more than one version has been left in. But I shall let this go as the price was so low perhaps for this very reason and it does not happen anywhere else in the book.) I have, in fact, enjoyed (if that is the right word) reading this harrowing story because JCO does, again, get into the mind of the abuser and killer and this time almost without the gratuitous gore she has sometimes dwelled on. She also gets into the mind of the abducted child, and the parents. The reader wants the horror to end but is aware that nothing will ever be the same... Except the hard reality that even as we read this, many monsters are plotting to snatch a child in different parts of this sick world.
on 22 February 2015
A short while ago, I read Joyce Carol Oates' short story collection, "The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares" and was moved by the sheer emotional impact of the stories it contained. This was especially true of the title story, which looked at the impact on a family torn by the disappearance of their daughter. The synopsis of "Daddy Love" suggested a similar impact, given the nature of the story and what I'd recently discovered about the power of Oates' writing.
Dinah and Whit Whitcomb are living happily with their 5 year old son Robbie in Michigan. Until one day at the Mall, Dinah is hit over the head and Robbie is snatched from her. Getting up to chase the van he was bundled into, she is run down by the kidnapper and left for dead. Robbie finds himself first locked in a box and then, when he is released, under the 'care' of Daddy Love.
Daddy Love is not a pleasant person, although he gives the impression of being so to the outside world, preaching at churches as Pastor Cash and being polite to everyone he meets. But when he and Robbie, now renamed Gideon, are alone, things are less pleasant. Daddy Love maintains discipline by locking him back in a restrictive coffin-like box and if his brand of 'love' were properly named, our main character would be called Daddy Rape.
As with much of Oates' writing, the story touches on human fears and the worst of human nature and it's not always comfortable reading. But, also in common with much of Oates' writing, as disturbing as you may find the content of the story, it's so compellingly told that I could not turn away. This is the written equivalent of a horror film that you watch through your hands, not wanting to see the gore, but unable to stop watching.
Oates' writing has two main features that make the reader feel this way. The first is the sheer emotional impact of the writing that makes you feel every situation. The smooth malevolence of Daddy Love seems to ooze from the page and even just reading about someone so disgusting made me feel dirty. The heat of Gideon's rage as he grows older and more rebellious burns from the page like one of his arson attacks and whilst his actions may be understandable in his circumstances, the heat feels feverish as if he were infected by some of the things Daddy Love put him through.
The other feature was the sheer style the story is presented in. The opening chapters repeat early events over and over as the kidnapping occurs. Whilst this felt a little confusing at first, I soon realised that they were the events as recounted by Dinah's mind as it was still reeling from the shock of events. This noticed, I couldn't help but admire the quality of both the thinking and the execution in this part of the novel.
If there was one down side, I felt it was in the ending. It may well have been realistic in a case such as this and may well mirror a real child abduction case, but it didn't seem to quite fit in with much of what had come before. It was still a well written and emotionally expressed section of the novel, but after all that had come before I struggled a little to adjust to the change of pace and direction that resulted.
However, all that has come before was so good that this slightly weaker ending didn't spoil the book, it just took some of the edge away from it. Fans of Joyce Carol Oates' work will certainly enjoy "Daddy Love", as it's well in keeping with her usual style and quality of writing. It may be a little too dark for readers not used to the genre, although those that have read stories of abuse like Anna Paterson's "Anorexic" or the work of Dave Pelzer could be more used to this kind of story and may find this both a realistic and well written example of that story, even as fictional as it is.
This review may also appear, in whole or in part, under my name at any or all of www.ciao.co.uk, www.thebookbag.co.uk, www.goodreads.com, www.amazon.co.uk and www.dooyoo.co.uk
on 1 March 2013
I loved this book and read it within a day or so. I haven't read a book like this before, the way the story is told is very different from anything i had ever read.
I know a few people were worried about the content of this book but IMO there was nothing in this book that upset any parent. The author told of the abuse that little Robbie went through without the need for gory descriptions.
As my title says this book was an excellent read and i look forward to reading many more books from this author.
on 22 July 2013
joyce carol Oates is a skillfull and experienced writer who manages to give sufficient gruesome detail for the purpose of a strong story without it ever going over the top into prurience .
thought the depiction of the mother and her feeling of loss was particularly well done and the inter-dependency of abuser and abused was interesting . A book to make you think hard rather than lap up.