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By Joyce Carol Oates

Fleeing Nazi Germany in 1936, the Schwarts immigrate to a small city in upstate big apple. right here the father—a former highschool teacher—is demeaned via the one task he can get: gravedigger and cemetery caretaker. while neighborhood prejudice and the family's personal emotional frailty provide upward push to an unthinkable tragedy, the gravedigger's daughter, Rebecca heads out into the United States. Embarking upon a unprecedented odyssey of erotic threat and inventive self-invention, she seeks renewal, redemption, and peace—on the line to a bittersweet and especially “American” triumph.

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Run away as her brothers had performed? the place? Such techniques got here to her, mutinous and interesting, underneath the Drumm highway bridge the place she crouched amid boulders and rocks, previous rusted pipes, damaged concrete, steel rods sticking out from the shallow water close to shore. This was once particles from the bridge’s building two decades prior to. She used to be 13 now. Her birthday had long past unremarked within the stone residence within the cemetery, as rather a lot else there went unremarked. She cherished being 13. She desired to be older, as her brothers have been older. She used to be impatient with closing a baby, trapped in that condo. She hadn’t but started to bleed, to have “periods”—“cramps”—as Katy and different ladies did every month. She knew it needs to ensue to her quickly and what she dreaded such a lot approximately it was once having to inform Ma. For Ma must recognize, and Ma will be deeply embarrassed or even envious, having to understand. Rebecca had grown except Anna Schwart, considering that Herschel’s disappearance. She believed that her mom now not listened to song at the radio, for Pa claimed that the radio used to be damaged. Rebecca had now not listened together with her mom in see you later, she may come to wonder whether she’d ever listened. Piano track. Beethoven. yet what have been the identify of the sonata— a reputation like “Passionata”? She needs to cross domestic, quickly. It was once starting to be overdue afternoon, Ma used to be looking forward to her. constantly there have been responsibilities yet predominantly Anna Schwart sought after her daughter domestic. to not converse along with her and positively to not contact her, scarcely even to examine her. yet to understand that Rebecca was once domestic, and secure. at the underside of the plank bridge have been ravishing faces! Ghost-faces mirrored upward from the rippling water less than. Rebecca stared at those faces that have been frequently these of her misplaced cousins Freyda, Elzbieta, Joel. And extra lately the faces of Herschel and Gus. Dreamily she saw them, and puzzled in the event that they may perhaps see her. She’d identified why her brothers had disappeared, yet she had now not recognized the gravedigger’ s daughter ᩳ 181 why her cousins and their mom and dad were despatched again to the outdated global. To die there, Pa had acknowledged. Like animals. Why? Ask God why. Ask that hypocrite F. D. R. why! Rebecca recalled her dolls Maggie and Minnie. one of many dolls were Freyda’s doll. The reminiscence was once so vibrant, Maggie cuddled in Freyda’s hands, nearly Rebecca believed it should have been so. either Maggie and Minnie had disappeared decades in the past. in all likelihood, Ma had disposed of them. Ma had a manner of taking away issues while it used to be time. She had no different have to clarify herself, nor may Rebecca have wanted to invite. Minnie, the unhappy grotesque bald rubber doll, have been Rebecca’s doll. Minnie used to be so debased, you couldn't injure her additional. there has been a convenience in that! Hairless as a wizened child. A corpse-baby. ( within the cemetery, there have been corpse-babies buried. in fact Rebecca had no longer visible any of those yet she knew there have been baby-sized coffins, in baby-sized plots. frequently those lifeless had no names other than child. ) Rebecca winced to imagine she’d ever been so infantile, to play with dolls.

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