Winner of the 2011 Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a Fiction Collection
"In taut tales, the prolific Oates renders a world terrifying and utterly familiar... Oates is not only a prolific writer but a fine oneentertaining, skillful, always writing with one finger on the cultural pulse, often brilliantly so." Boston Globe
An incomparable master storyteller in all forms, in The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares
Joyce Carol Oates spins six imaginative tales of suspense. “The Corn Maiden” is the gut-wrenching story of Marissa, a beautiful and sweet but somewhat slow eleven-year-old girl with hair the color of corn silk. Her single mother comes home one night to find her missing and she panics. The police want to know why she left her young daughter alone until 8:00 p.m. With the confession that she’d been with a man, she knows she will be accused of neglect, or worse. Suspicion falls on a computer teacher at Marissa’s school who has no alibi. Obvious cluesperhaps too obviouspoint directly to him. Unsuspected is Judah (born Judith), an older girl from the same school who has told two friends in her thrall of the Indian legend of the Corn Maiden, in which a girl is sacrificed to ensure a good crop.
The trusting Marissa goes happily to a secluded basement with the older girls, pleased to be included, and is then convinced that the world has ended and that they are the last survivors. Remaining an unaware hostage for days, she grows weaker on a sparse diet as Judah
prepares her for sacrifice. Marissa’s seemingly inevitable fate becomes ever more terrifying as Judah
relishes her power, giving the tale unbearable tension with a shocking conclusion.
In “Helping Hands,” published here for the first time, a lonely woman meets a man in the unlikely clutter of a dingy charity shop and extends friendship, which soon turns to quiet and unacknowledged desire. With the mind-set of a victim struggling to overcome her shyness and fears, she has no idea what kinds of doors she may be opening.
The powerful stories in this extraordinary collection further enhance Joyce Carol Oates’s standing as one of the world’s greatest writers of suspense.