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The bonds of family are tested in the wake of a profound tragedy, providing a look at the darker side of our society by one of our most enduringly popular and important writers Night Sleep Death The Stars is a gripping examination of contemporary America through the prism of a family tragedy: when a powerful parent dies, each of his adult children reacts in startling and un The bonds of family are tested in the wake of a profound tragedy, providing a look at the darker side of our society by one of our most enduringly popular and important writers Night Sleep Death The Stars is a gripping examination of contemporary America through the prism of a family tragedy: when a powerful parent dies, each of his adult children reacts in startling and unexpected ways, and his grieving widow in the most surprising way of all. Stark and penetrating, Joyce Carol Oates’s latest novel is a vivid exploration of race, psychological trauma, class warfare, grief, and eventual healing, as well as an intimate family novel in the tradition of the author’s bestselling We Were the Mulvaneys.


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The bonds of family are tested in the wake of a profound tragedy, providing a look at the darker side of our society by one of our most enduringly popular and important writers Night Sleep Death The Stars is a gripping examination of contemporary America through the prism of a family tragedy: when a powerful parent dies, each of his adult children reacts in startling and un The bonds of family are tested in the wake of a profound tragedy, providing a look at the darker side of our society by one of our most enduringly popular and important writers Night Sleep Death The Stars is a gripping examination of contemporary America through the prism of a family tragedy: when a powerful parent dies, each of his adult children reacts in startling and unexpected ways, and his grieving widow in the most surprising way of all. Stark and penetrating, Joyce Carol Oates’s latest novel is a vivid exploration of race, psychological trauma, class warfare, grief, and eventual healing, as well as an intimate family novel in the tradition of the author’s bestselling We Were the Mulvaneys.

30 review for Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars.

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nilufer Ozmekik

    I haven’t read something so good for so long! I confess! I was scared and my eyes were about to pop out of my sockets as soon as I saw page numbers of the book. I liked to work on long books but they should be “Goldfinch” worthy greatly written and memorable reads. I was having second thoughts but I realized the book’s named after one my favorite poems so I have to go blind and dodge the bullet. There is nothing to be afraid of dnf’ing a book (I hate to do it but if it’s necessary you should ha I haven’t read something so good for so long! I confess! I was scared and my eyes were about to pop out of my sockets as soon as I saw page numbers of the book. I liked to work on long books but they should be “Goldfinch” worthy greatly written and memorable reads. I was having second thoughts but I realized the book’s named after one my favorite poems so I have to go blind and dodge the bullet. There is nothing to be afraid of dnf’ing a book (I hate to do it but if it’s necessary you should have to do it as well.) But as soon as I start this powerful, extra ordinary reading that ruined me for any mediocre readings I did recently, my emotions were everywhere. I smiled. I cried. I gritted my teeth. I clenched my fists. I laughed aloud. I whined. I clapped. I hurt. I ached. I smiled and finally I LOVED THIS DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY and the author’s brilliant, realistic portraits, living, breathing characterization, moving story-telling like a fresh breeze touches your face and you’re swimming in the literature sea, discovering new tastes, new gems and remarkable vividness of word choices. When I read a book, two things are important for me : The story’s pacing and strength of the characters’ depictions. For so long I haven’t read multi layered, detailed characters make you feel like you really know them. But the author brought them out with impeccable visualization. They seem like one of your family members. The author makes us easier to connect them and understand their motives, strengths, weaknesses, faults, flaws, beliefs, worries, dreams. I loved Jessalyn and I understand that she is better alone. She doesn’t need anyone to share her life after she lost her husband. She doesn’t want to be controlled by her own children. And of course those siblings fight with their own inner demons. My favorites were normally golden hearted Sophie and Virgil. Beverly and Thom are more problematic characters with their bottled up resentments and angers. Beverly shows her feelings by using her aggressive, critical tone and Thom prefers mockery and sarcasm as defense mechanism. We’re introduced so many remarkable characters throughout our journey and mesmerized by the story’s progression and memorable ending. This book needs your effort, your time, your full concentration and demands your heart and mind to open to the possibilities, surprises and unexpected twists of life. But at the end, your feel the warmness in your heart that sings to you loudly and you embrace the happiness with your soul. So this is amazing experience you’d love to welcome with open hands. Overall: THIS IS MASTERPIECE! Special thanks to NetGalley and Harper Collins Publishers/Ecco for sharing this fantastic fiction’s ARC COPY with me in exchange my honest review. blog instagram facebook twitter

  2. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    THIS IS STILL MY FAVORITE BOOK THIS YEAR!!!! Just released today!!? VERY HIGH RECOMMENDATION TO THOSE READERS WHO ENJOY A GREAT LONG FAMILY SAGA.... ITS GRIPPING from page 1 with a very thought provoking situation RELEVANT to our current events. I read this ‘before’ these events. ... I say no more about the beginning... But my God... I LOVE THIS BOOK!! Strong favorite!!! UPDATE Whew, WOW,............AMAZING.....an 800 page novel that I'm sad to see end! Review to follow. (in a few days or so) I’m Back: H THIS IS STILL MY FAVORITE BOOK THIS YEAR!!!! Just released today!!? VERY HIGH RECOMMENDATION TO THOSE READERS WHO ENJOY A GREAT LONG FAMILY SAGA.... ITS GRIPPING from page 1 with a very thought provoking situation RELEVANT to our current events. I read this ‘before’ these events. ... I say no more about the beginning... But my God... I LOVE THIS BOOK!! Strong favorite!!! UPDATE Whew, WOW,............AMAZING.....an 800 page novel that I'm sad to see end! Review to follow. (in a few days or so) I’m Back: Here it Goes....( love to chat with other readers who read it) The book cover is gorgeous... The title is inspired by the Walt Whitman poem: “A Clear Midnight”..... “This is thy O Soul, thy free flight into the wordless, Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson done, Thee fully fourth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering the themes thou lovest best, Night, Sleep, death, and the stars” Joyce Carol Oat’s novel, “Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars”, is a great work of art....grandly entertaining- bold, comic, tragic, deeply moving family drama. It’s sharp, witty, and highly descriptive. This novel dissects each family member with a ruthless cutting edge: unraveling at the seams....a book well worth reading. John Earle McClean...(nicknamed *Whitey*)...was born in Feb.1943. He died in 2010. If only Whitey had lived....none of this would have happened. Whitey’s family: Jessalyn, ( wife), and the adult kids: .....Thom, Beverly, Lorene, Sophia, and Virgil often asked themselves, after his death.....”WHAT WOULD DAD SAY?” As the reader....I often asked....”does it matter?” “Why? and/or Why not?” What was obvious: The entire McClean experienced great loss after Whitey died. Every character had distinct characteristics, talents, interests, strengths, weaknesses, accomplishments, passive and aggressive sides, fears, concerns, worries, self-doubts, opinions, and secrets. At any given time one or all of the siblings might have kept a tight lid on their emotions, or be explosive with them. “Siblings form alliances with one another that are both permanent and shifting. Disagreements, disappointments, feuds, temporary and expedient bonds, shared resentments—“ Each character had multi dimensional sides to them. An entire novel could be written on any ‘one’ of the siblings - or Jessalyn ( the widow).... A complete novel could be written on a few of the minor characters as well. A FEW.....Tidbit ( general/stereotype), examples: [but don’t pegged them too harshly - as every character may surprise you at some point.... as specialized chameleons do.... in this 800 page novel]. The siblings: ....Beverly...was resentful, .... judgemental....and critical... ....Thom was bossy... who’s sarcasm could be construed as funny, if it wasn’t directed at you. ....Sophia was the earnest schoolgirl ....Lorene...the sardonic schoolmistress ....Virgil...just was! ( was also my favorite character) Jessalyn....wanted to be left alone to live her own life ... make her own choices. She certainly didn’t want to marry a boring old shoe, as a replacement husband. And she certainly didn’t want her children to dictate her choices. She’s a woman after my own heart! Jessalyn wondered: if????? “You’re only as happy as your most unhappy child. Is this true? Jessalyn wonders if it is a statement of resignation and defeat or a goad to action and change. If it means you will never be happy if your child of yours is not happy; then you must do all you can to ensure that neither of you unhappy”. ....Many characters & places, to sink your teeth into: Galapagos, is a stand out! ....Hugo Martinez, (photographer artist poet activist), adds a lot to this story. ....Mack-the-Knife: *Mackey*, is a Tomcat to love! ....A GREAT embarrassing scene ( I was cringing), with a sibling > a side of ( cough/cough> her or he)... as I’m not saying who....had me CRINGING with embarrassment. ....Did I cry? My eyes ‘watered’ for a minute in one scene "One’s own existence, so small. One’s grief, happiness, love or failure to love—of so little consequence”. “Night. Sleep. Death.The Stars”, takes a good hard look at the complex relationships within a family.... Oats supplied us with a tragic event that sets the stage.... ...that will have the family members, ( and readers), not only looking at loss, responsibilities to family members, marriages, boundaries, cracks in the foundation of beliefs, but she examines race, injustice, class, (which for better or worse shape the reality and continuity of our lives). ....Domestic realism... ....Luminous details of every day life and all the riffraff’s... ....With masterful skills....Joyce Carol Oats exposes us to the sobering choices, strains of unexpected sorrow, unexpected pleasures, and rich rewards. I thoroughly loved this book! Thank You HarperCollins, and Joyce Carol Oats. This book will be released on June 9th, 2020

  3. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    This was so good! Set in Hammond New York. I was thoroughly caught up inside the lives and minds of this big family...a quite wealthy family...a widow and her five adult children... all struggling to move on after the tragic loss of their much beloved husband/father. There are many topics touched on in this novel, such as racial discrimination, police brutality, sibling rivalry, emotional trauma...etc.. The family dynamics were quite fascinating to watch... (yes, watch). I felt like I was there wat This was so good! Set in Hammond New York. I was thoroughly caught up inside the lives and minds of this big family...a quite wealthy family...a widow and her five adult children... all struggling to move on after the tragic loss of their much beloved husband/father. There are many topics touched on in this novel, such as racial discrimination, police brutality, sibling rivalry, emotional trauma...etc.. The family dynamics were quite fascinating to watch... (yes, watch). I felt like I was there watching everything going on. 800 pages, yet I would still have liked to read more about these characters. This was my first book by this author.. I plan to read more. Thank you to Netgalley and HarperCollins for the ARC!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Eric Anderson

    Since Joyce Carol Oates frequently writes about social and political issues at the heart of American society her fiction can often feel eerily prescient. But it's an extraordinary coincidence that in the week preceding the publication of her latest novel NIGHT. SLEEP. DEATH. THE STARS. widely publicised real life events would so closely mirror the book's prologue. The opening describes an incident where a middle-aged white man driving on an upstate New York expressway notices a police confrontat Since Joyce Carol Oates frequently writes about social and political issues at the heart of American society her fiction can often feel eerily prescient. But it's an extraordinary coincidence that in the week preceding the publication of her latest novel NIGHT. SLEEP. DEATH. THE STARS. widely publicised real life events would so closely mirror the book's prologue. The opening describes an incident where a middle-aged white man driving on an upstate New York expressway notices a police confrontation on the side of the road. He observes white police officers using excessive force while detaining a young dark-skinned man and stops to question their actions. In response the officers restrain, beat and taser the driver. The injuries he sustains eventually lead to his death. The video of George Floyd, a 46 year old black man who died as a result of being brutally restrained by a white police officer in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020, has sparked widespread protests and newly motivated the Black Lives Matter movement. Public discussions regrading institutionalised racism, prejudice and privilege continue. These are also the pressing issues at the centre of Oates's epic new novel about a family whose lives unravel as a consequence of such a tragic event. Read my full review of Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars. by Joyce Carol Oates on LonesomeReader You can also watch me interview Joyce Carol Oates about this novel where she candidly discusses her very personal reasons for writing it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkXsoe6ieKY

  5. 5 out of 5

    Martie Nees Record

    Genre: Literary Fiction/Family Saga Publisher: HarperCollins Pub. Date: June 9, 2020 Joyce Carol Oates has long been a favorite literary author of mine. Just when I think that she can’t do it again—write another gripping family saga—she does. The book’s title comes from the closing lines of Walt Whitman’s “A Clear Midnight.” The poem “refers to the moment of transition that happens from one day to the next. The moment is used as a metaphor from changing corporeal existence to the spiritual existenc Genre: Literary Fiction/Family Saga Publisher: HarperCollins Pub. Date: June 9, 2020 Joyce Carol Oates has long been a favorite literary author of mine. Just when I think that she can’t do it again—write another gripping family saga—she does. The book’s title comes from the closing lines of Walt Whitman’s “A Clear Midnight.” The poem “refers to the moment of transition that happens from one day to the next. The moment is used as a metaphor from changing corporeal existence to the spiritual existence.” The interruption of the poem is from PoetAndPoem.com. Yes, I needed to look up its meaning. Once I got it, I could easily see how its message is used repeatedly throughout this weighty novel of 800 pages. The theme of “Night” is familiar to fans of Oates. Once again, she is writing about love and loss, which most would agree are preoccupations in our lives as well as in our literature. Oates has lost two husbands, one after forty-seven years of marriage, and the other after ten. I read her 2011 memoir, “A Widow's Story,” which she wrote after the death of her first husband. There she suggests that to get through the agonizing grief, “the widow should think I kept myself alive.” In this novel, the author holds nothing back when writing on the psychological effects of grief on Jessalyn, who is one of the main characters, and a grieving widow. The novel is filled with her emotions of shock, loss, feelings of unreality, and thoughts of never loving again. Oates didn’t write personally after the loss of her second husband. I can’t help but wonder if she chose to tell any of that story here. The author has said no such thing, to be sure. In this big, sprawling tale, Oates takes her readers to a small town located in upstate New York. Along with examining grief, healing and a family coming undone, the author takes on race and class issues. The story revolves around John Earle “Whitey” McClaren, a successful 67-year-old husband and father with a big personality. He is the anchor of the family as well as the respected former mayor of the town. When he sees two cops beating a defenseless, nonwhite man, he stops his car to intervene. The police do not recognize him and they use their taser guns on him repeatedly. Consequently, he has a stroke. And that is it for Whitey. Oates has him die in the hospital soon afterward. The rest of the tale centers around Whitey’s widow and five adult children, all with very different personalities. All the kids lose their footing after their father’s death. They come off as having been overly connected or fused to him. Their fragile mental states are not immediately noticeable as with their mother, but they all experience life-altering changes. Oates writes the family’s pecking order at a pace that begins slow and controlled, but builds up angrily. Out of the siblings, the youngest son is the most sympathetic character. He is the black sheep of the family and at the bottom of the pecking order. The author portrays him with bone-deep loneliness. The middle daughter is a high school principal. She transfers her anger onto her students. She actually (spoiler) sabotages some kids by editing their transcripts so they will not get into their first choice colleges. The author has never shied away from writing on the dark side of human nature. “Night” has been compared to Oates’ 1996 “We Were the Mulvaneys,” which is a saga about another family living in a small, rural upstate New York town, which happens to be where she grew up. “Mulvaneys” is one of my favorite novels by the author. I believe that it is superior to “Night.” An argument can be made that “Night” takes on too many characters with too many details. It can leave the reader thinking that each character’s story should be a novel in itself, making the story feel bloated. Indeed, the master storyteller’s latest novel (according to her website, this is her 59th) is long. Whether it’s too long is debatable—at times yes, at times no. Still, the poetic quality of the author’s prose is worth your time. When all is said and done, the thing about Oates, is after reading her work, it becomes impossible not to notice when you are reading a mediocre novel. That is the power of Joyce Carol Oates. I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review. Find all my book reviews at: https://www.goodreads.com/review/list... https://books6259.wordpress.com/ https://www.barnesandnoble.com/review... https://www.facebook.com/martie.neesr... https://www.instagram.com/martie6947/ https://www.pinterest.com/martienreco...\ https://www.amazon.com/ https://twitter.com/NeesRecord

  6. 4 out of 5

    Elle

    So I started reading this just before the protests started, and I was surprised how relevant the subject matter ended up being. The initial conflict, which takes place in the prologue, involves explicit police brutality and has some devastating consequences. I’m not usually someone who will avoid or seek out topical books to read, so this coinciding with real-world events didn’t really affect my reading either way. That said, I wanted to give people a heads-up before diving in because the descri So I started reading this just before the protests started, and I was surprised how relevant the subject matter ended up being. The initial conflict, which takes place in the prologue, involves explicit police brutality and has some devastating consequences. I’m not usually someone who will avoid or seek out topical books to read, so this coinciding with real-world events didn’t really affect my reading either way. That said, I wanted to give people a heads-up before diving in because the description provided doesn’t mention that as far as I can see. I haven’t read anything by Joyce Carole Oates before, so I had no idea she wrote these absolute tomes when I requested this one. Truthfully, it’s difficult for me to stay focused on something so long, unless it’s a faster-paced plot. This one was a little too meandering for me to fully absorb, so I’m not going to leave a rating for it. But for those who are already fans of Oates, you’ll probably like this. The characters are complex and well-developed, the writing is beautiful and though it may be a ‘family drama’, the tension feels real and earned. A lot of reviewers I follow and who’s opinions I value really loved Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars., so don’t discount this one just because it didn’t work for me! *Thanks to HarperCollins & Netgalley for an advance copy!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kasa Cotugno

    In person Joyce Carol Oates (JCO) has an air almost of detachment, looking over your shoulder as if at something or someone more interesting, "over there." But in her writing, she displays a deep well of empathy in her characters. Over her prodigious career, she has created enough characters to populate a small town, possibly a city, and from my recollection, no two are alike. I've been reading her for over 40 years, and given the amount of novels and short stories that have flowed from her, it In person Joyce Carol Oates (JCO) has an air almost of detachment, looking over your shoulder as if at something or someone more interesting, "over there." But in her writing, she displays a deep well of empathy in her characters. Over her prodigious career, she has created enough characters to populate a small town, possibly a city, and from my recollection, no two are alike. I've been reading her for over 40 years, and given the amount of novels and short stories that have flowed from her, it was still amazing to read Widow, her account of her life after the death of her first husband, of her profound grief and depiction of a full life spent away from the keyboard. When does she find the time to produce such a body of work. Now in her 80's, she takes for her title a line from a poem by Walt Whitman (when does she have time to read?), and presents an 800-page masterwork on grief and its effect on a widow and her five adult children. Each person is so clearly realized and given such a potent inner life, each child thinks they know what's best for the Mom they remember as an adjunct to their beloved father, who wasn't such a saint after all. In other hands, this material could feel bloated and padded, but JCO has managed to make every page necessary, and while I usually don't find novels of such length intriguing, I found this one required every step.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Judy

    Note: This is one of the longest reviews I have written in a while. It is a plea for the benefits of reading outside one's comfort zone. I hope you understand. I think it is safe to say that readers are divided into devoted fans of Joyce Carol Oates and those who would not read her, ever! Here is how I became fan. I first read her one hot month in 1988 when I was stranded in Los Angeles due to a snafu in a training program I was attending. My accommodations were located across the street from a Note: This is one of the longest reviews I have written in a while. It is a plea for the benefits of reading outside one's comfort zone. I hope you understand. I think it is safe to say that readers are divided into devoted fans of Joyce Carol Oates and those who would not read her, ever! Here is how I became fan. I first read her one hot month in 1988 when I was stranded in Los Angeles due to a snafu in a training program I was attending. My accommodations were located across the street from a used bookstore with racks out on the sidewalk where battered paperbacks sold for a quarter. I picked up Marya, A Life, only two years after its publication and already a 25 cent paperback. I lay on my bed in a sweltering room and read about Marya's terrible, gritty life having really no idea what I was reading. It was the most disturbing thing I had ever read. Not surprising because in those days I usually read trashy bestsellers. By 1992, I was living permanently in LA and had embarked on an effort to branch out in my reading. I read Joyce Carol Oates's first novel, With Shuddering Fall. It was pretty gritty too. Her characters were fairly unrecognizable to me. Generally lower class whites, not mainstream in any way, violent and sometimes outright crazy. My mother told me she had tried reading Oates but found her books "weird." I persevered, still eager in those days to rebel against my mother. I have read her first nine novels and some early short stories, then dropped her for several years. In 2013, I started again, reading whatever was her latest book. She is still weird in her own unique way, so I can only conclude that I have changed as a reader. I now count myself among her dedicated fans. I have not read the recent bestsellers, How To Be An Antiracist or White Fragility, but I would say that Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars is JCO's answer to such conundrums from a literary viewpoint. The title is the last line of a Walt Whitman poem, "A Clear Midnight." The novel is an intimate family tale concerning a white family in upstate New York. The father, a much-loved and well-to-do man in his community, pulls off the road one evening to intervene in what appears to be a scene of police harassment against a Black man. In the ensuing debacle, John Earle McClaren is beaten, tasered, and left by the police on the side of the road where he suffers a massive stroke. The dark skinned man being harassed is taken into custody. McClaren dies in the hospital from a staph infection a couple weeks later. By that time in the story, his wife and five grown offspring have been introduced. It is clear they are not exactly the close and happy family they are perceived to be by the community. The novel is long but I read it quickly, not wanting to look away. The family majorly fractures after the patriarch's death but she shows us the hairline fractures present from the beginning, though they had been held in stasis, in almost a hostage situation, by John Earle McClaren. His control was not ever physically brutal but it was absolute. Not his wife nor any one of his children were allowed to be who they really were nor to think for themselves. JCO has always appeared to be prescient in her novels. She wrote this one a year before the more recent explosion of the Black Lives Matter movement. Listening to an interview with her about writing this novel, I realized again how attuned she is to the evils and upheavals of American culture. At this point in her life she is a privileged white woman but she came up in near poverty in the midst of small town violence. A favorite childhood book of hers was Alice In Wonderland. She has written at least 56 novels! I feel her writing has become somewhat more accessible over the years but has never lost that bite, penetrating the human heart with all of its strengths and weaknesses, its fears and joys. In her novels I have found everyone I've ever known, the ones I was afraid to know, and myself. I most loved Jessalyn McClaren, the widow of John and the mother of those five children. Her grief and her emergence from it, her tentative forays into life as her true self, are all so meticulously shown. Somehow we white people get to know ourselves through the book: our ridiculous assumptions about others, our reluctance to move outside our perceived safety zones, our ill-informed prejudices about people and our inherent fragility as the most powerful race on earth, no matter what our political stances are. All of that is in Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars. Read it at your own risk.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Bam cooks the books ;-)

    How ironic that the first chapter of Oates' latest novel is about police brutality. A timely subject for our country--one that needs to be discussed and solutions found. I am disappointed therefore that Oates doesn't use this opportunity to fully address these issues after beginning her novel with that dramatic scene, but instead, writes a rather commonplace story about yet another wealthy white American family that begins to unravel after the death of the patriarch. There are five adult childre How ironic that the first chapter of Oates' latest novel is about police brutality. A timely subject for our country--one that needs to be discussed and solutions found. I am disappointed therefore that Oates doesn't use this opportunity to fully address these issues after beginning her novel with that dramatic scene, but instead, writes a rather commonplace story about yet another wealthy white American family that begins to unravel after the death of the patriarch. There are five adult children in the McClaren family and the story explores each child's relationship with their parents and each other. Oates' skill at creating characters is impressive--however, these are not very likable people. How awful that the husband is called 'Whitey', that nickname given to him after his hair turned white at a young age. Wouldn't you have refused to let people call you that? The most interesting character to me is the mother Jessalyn, who went through her married life being coddled by her husband, treated like a child, not his equal when making important decisions. Jessalyn continues to live by herself in the huge, historic eight-bedroom family home. Its size is a bit of an embarrassment but how can it be sold if part of Whitey still remains there if anywhere, where she still hears his voice advising her on life. I was hoping she'd rise up out of her overwhelming grief and take the opportunity to become a fully independent woman for once. But no, she meets a new man and, like a chameleon, begins changing to fit his lifestyle, values and opinions. Unfortunately, I've known several women who changed just like that. Okay, so you are probably wondering why I've given this novel four stars if I have so many criticisms. The gesture is a bow to the writer's impressive skills. I have to say here though that her habit of using parentheses, when the qualifying word or phrase could have stood on its own, drove me a little bit crazy after awhile. Why? Why? Why? I received an arc of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinions. Many thanks for the opportunity.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    NIGHT. SLEEP. DEATH. THE STARS. BY JOYCE CAROL OATES A Clear Midnight This is thy hour, O Soul, thy free flight into the wordless, Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson done, Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering themes thou lovest best. Night, sleep, death and the stars. Walt Whitman This was a big sprawling examination about race issues, different classes, grief and healing which ultimately brings hope. It begins with John Earle McClaren witnessing an Indian docto NIGHT. SLEEP. DEATH. THE STARS. BY JOYCE CAROL OATES A Clear Midnight This is thy hour, O Soul, thy free flight into the wordless, Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson done, Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering themes thou lovest best. Night, sleep, death and the stars. Walt Whitman This was a big sprawling examination about race issues, different classes, grief and healing which ultimately brings hope. It begins with John Earle McClaren witnessing an Indian doctor named Azim Murthy being brutally beaten by two police officers on the road. Azim Murthy wasn’t resisting arrest or fighting with the police as they brutally beat him and taser him. He in reality had been pulled over for no reason other than his dark skin. These two police officers racially profiled him. They must have already had anger for not being able to find drugs or a weapon and took their excessive force on this poor victim. He is a doctor with no criminal record at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York. John Earle McClaren had been in the wrong place at the wrong time dressed up with an expensive vehicle. He used to be Mayor of Hammond where he has had a good relationship with the police. John or his nick name “Whitey,” bravely pulled over to try to intervene with what he saw happening. The police beat Whitey and taser him and he has a stroke. His wife Jessalyn and his five children have no idea other than he has had a stroke and crashed his vehicle. I don’t understand how the doctors of which he had a neurologist and with all of the imaging machines that they easily bought this exclamation. It is only when the oldest of his five children, Thom goes to the impound lot to pick up his father’s vehicle he finds no damage on it at all. He finds a slip of paper saying all charges are dropped. As the days pass and Jessalyn and her five children stay with Whitey waiting for him to open his eyes or become conscious. Thom starts snapping pictures of his father of all of the red-purple blotches on his skin with his cell phone. Whitey is only 67 years old and when he does become conscious he tries to talk and one side of his body is paralyzed but his wife Jessalyn can understand him. He says “hi there,” and “I love you.” They all think Whitey is going to recover but he dies of a staph infection. It is quite shocking to me that he died so young when the doctors thought he would make a full recovery but of course would require many months of physical therapy. The two oldest daughters blame the fourth child Virgil for not using the hand sanitizer and since Virgil is not materialistic and works as an artist and lives on a farm, they blame him for their father’s demise. Jessalyn is the nicest and most likable character other than Virgil and the younger Sophia who is taking a break from getting her doctorate. Sophia is working in a medical laboratory under the wing of the director Alistair Means her boss. She works with mice and rats and is known for her steady hands. Virgil and Sophia are good to their mother Jessalyn who is a saint. They respect who she chooses for friends and are supportive to the grieving widow. There is much written about grief and pages of Jessalyn grieving the loss of her husband. Thom takes his father’s place at the helm of McClaren Inc. Thom lives the furthest away and is married with children. Beverly is second oldest and buts into her mother’s grieving process by complaining about a stray feral cat that Jessalyn feeds and adopts. Beverly does things like call Thom on the phone telling him that he has to do something about Jessalyn’s cat named Mack the Knife or Mackie who I think helped her grieve Whitey’s death. Beverly also finds her mother has decided to give away all of her expensive clothes to Goodwill and Beverly acts like she is the mother and takes all the nice clothes, fur coats and shoes for herself. She also can’t seem to recognize that Jessalyn is grieving and wants to stay close to home where she feels Whitey’s presence. Beverly complains that Jessalyn is neglecting her grandchildren. Lorene does not have children but is very mean spirited. She is the Principal at North Hammond High school and is very technological savvy. She sabotages Senior’s by interfering with their first choice colleges because she finds out that they make fun of her on social media. Lorene and Beverly are very judgmental about people of color or aren’t as concerned with money for example their younger brother Virgil who in the beginning rides around on an old bicycle. They didn’t get that way from their mother or father. This is a good literary novel by Joyce Carol Oates whom I have had so many of her books over the years but haven’t gotten around to reading them. It may appear that I have given away too many spoilers but there is so much more to this novel. I have described some of the very beginning and who I liked as character’s such as Jessalyn and her two youngest children, Sophia and Virgil. I was recommended this by a Good Reads friend and she was right. This is approximately 800 pages but I read it in three sittings. It is interesting and Joyce Carol Oates has crafted a very realistic contemporary novel that I found to be very timely and easily readable. It takes place in 2010 through 2011 in Hammond, New York. I did witness sibling rivalry, how we all cope with grief in our own ways. There is some pretty impressive writing and it is hard to believe that racial profiling still exists and how excessive force is a real problem with some police. How hard it is to prove police brutality for people of color and how sometimes people are wrongly accused. With the selfless lovable Jessalyn you are in good company as she is still young and there is a triumph of hope. I will read more from this author who is a very talented and who writes a new book just about every year. Publication Date: June 9, 2020 Thank you to Net Galley, Joyce Carol Oates and Ecco/Harper Collins Publishers for providing me with my ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review. #NightSleepDeathTheStars #JoyceCarolOates #EccoHarperCollinsPublishers #NetGalley

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lolly K Dandeneau

    via my blog: https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/ 𝑻𝒉𝒆𝒚’𝒅 𝒍𝒐𝒗𝒆𝒅 𝒎𝒐𝒎𝒎𝒚 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒎𝒐𝒔𝒕. 𝑬𝒗𝒆𝒓𝒚𝒐𝒏𝒆 𝒘𝒉𝒐 𝒌𝒏𝒆𝒘 𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒊𝒓 𝒎𝒐𝒎𝒎𝒚 𝒍𝒐𝒗𝒆𝒅 𝒉𝒆𝒓. 𝒀𝒆𝒕 𝒊𝒕 𝒘𝒂𝒔 𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒊𝒓 𝒇𝒂𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒓 𝒘𝒉𝒐𝒔𝒆 𝒓𝒆𝒔𝒑𝒆𝒄𝒕 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒂𝒅𝒎𝒊𝒓𝒂𝒕𝒊𝒐𝒏 𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒚 𝒔𝒐𝒖𝒈𝒉𝒕, 𝒑𝒓𝒆𝒄𝒊𝒔𝒆𝒍𝒚 𝒃𝒆𝒄𝒂𝒖𝒔𝒆 𝑱𝒐𝒉𝒏 𝑬𝒂𝒓𝒍𝒆 𝑴𝒄𝑪𝒍𝒂𝒓𝒆𝒏’𝒔 𝒓𝒆𝒔𝒑𝒆𝒄𝒕 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒂𝒅𝒎𝒊𝒓𝒂𝒕𝒊𝒐𝒏 𝒘𝒆𝒓𝒆 𝒏𝒐𝒕 𝒆𝒂𝒔𝒚 𝒕𝒐 𝒂𝒕𝒕𝒂𝒊𝒏. I am always blown away by Joyce Carol Oates because of her ability to strip every type of character to the bone. There isn’t a single thing she fails to expose, like an all seeing eye. As a writer, her fiction never lacks veri via my blog: https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/ 𝑻𝒉𝒆𝒚’𝒅 𝒍𝒐𝒗𝒆𝒅 𝒎𝒐𝒎𝒎𝒚 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒎𝒐𝒔𝒕. 𝑬𝒗𝒆𝒓𝒚𝒐𝒏𝒆 𝒘𝒉𝒐 𝒌𝒏𝒆𝒘 𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒊𝒓 𝒎𝒐𝒎𝒎𝒚 𝒍𝒐𝒗𝒆𝒅 𝒉𝒆𝒓. 𝒀𝒆𝒕 𝒊𝒕 𝒘𝒂𝒔 𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒊𝒓 𝒇𝒂𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒓 𝒘𝒉𝒐𝒔𝒆 𝒓𝒆𝒔𝒑𝒆𝒄𝒕 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒂𝒅𝒎𝒊𝒓𝒂𝒕𝒊𝒐𝒏 𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒚 𝒔𝒐𝒖𝒈𝒉𝒕, 𝒑𝒓𝒆𝒄𝒊𝒔𝒆𝒍𝒚 𝒃𝒆𝒄𝒂𝒖𝒔𝒆 𝑱𝒐𝒉𝒏 𝑬𝒂𝒓𝒍𝒆 𝑴𝒄𝑪𝒍𝒂𝒓𝒆𝒏’𝒔 𝒓𝒆𝒔𝒑𝒆𝒄𝒕 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒂𝒅𝒎𝒊𝒓𝒂𝒕𝒊𝒐𝒏 𝒘𝒆𝒓𝒆 𝒏𝒐𝒕 𝒆𝒂𝒔𝒚 𝒕𝒐 𝒂𝒕𝒕𝒂𝒊𝒏. I am always blown away by Joyce Carol Oates because of her ability to strip every type of character to the bone. There isn’t a single thing she fails to expose, like an all seeing eye. As a writer, her fiction never lacks verisimilitude. Why do people behave the way they do? In 𝙽𝚒𝚐𝚑𝚝. 𝚂𝚕𝚎𝚎𝚙. 𝙳𝚎𝚊𝚝𝚑. 𝚃𝚑𝚎 𝚂𝚝𝚊𝚛𝚜, it’s the influence of the father when he is present and how their lives spin off course when he is gone that alters their roles. In the McClaren family the children have always “contended for the father’s attention”, and it carries on well into adulthood. “Each family occasion was a test of some sort from which you could not exclude yourself”, the pain of trying to measure up to John Earle McClaren “Whitey”, makes the family a battleground of “shifting alliances”. They all suffer a human disaster of sorts, when Whitey witnesses a social injustice, one as a former mayor he would be wrong to ignore. The police don’t know that an important upstanding citizen is before them, things get out of hand. Lying in intensive care, unable to communicate he is left clinging to life, wondering what just hit him. Clearly an imposing man, Whitey isn’t the character that pulled me in, it is Jessalyn, mother and wife who has never burdened others with her own needs, the woman who has been taken for granted by her husband (who certainly loves her) and their five children. Thom is the “Heir”, the one who knows everything the others don’t, the most like his impressive father who carries the McClaren name well. Virgil is nothing like his successful brother, “maddening” to the other much more responsible, self-sufficient, stubborn siblings. His hippy living infuriates them all, more so when coddled by their mother with whom he shares an easy intimacy. Naturally he fails his father and feels like an outcast among his siblings who resent him something terrible. Sophia is the steady hand, a PH.D. research scientist working on the cure for cancer. Whitey is beyond proud when bragging about this youngest daughter. A woman who seeks the admiration of others. Beverley resents her father’s love of Thom, but remains a ‘sweet suburban mom’, following somewhat in her mother’s shoes with the husband as the head of the family. The well behaved daughter, tirelessly raising children. Lorene is a school principal, a strong woman, someone to be reckoned with who keeps adolescent boys and girls in line, including her nieces and nephews. No longer a doting aunt with the children growing up. Also the sister who always has to be best, come out on top. After the reading of the will, learning how the estate is to be divided among Whitey’s children and wife, there is turbulence within the family. What they feel they deserve, or don’t has them all reflecting on their father’s decision, and themselves. Equal is not necessarily fair! Every single one of them is falling apart without the eye of the father to fill their lives with expectations, as if he was their polestar. Jessalyn’s purpose has changed, without her beloved to tend to she is lost. It is a shock when she becomes involved with a man, exposing a class divide. Before Hugo comes a mangy, squint eyed tomcat first to steal her attention, no review is complete without mentioning Mack the Knife. The cat who makes them all question their mother’s sanity. Jessalyn is no longer wallpaper, she is suddenly behaving in a manner surely their father wouldn’t have approved of, and his will is proof he knew best how to manage her, to care for her when she obviously hadn’t a clue. Right? She is slipping, but it is this slow unraveling that helps her find her spine, that thing her daughters doubt she has. The McClaren family is a wreck, but it’s as if through their father’s death they finally have permission to discover who they really are. It gets ugly, they have soaked in suppression for too long, living with the roles their father’s keen insight gave them. Whitey was a loving father but not everyone can live in the world the way he did, trail blazing with endless confidence as your fire. Where did that burning ambition and confidence get him in the end? How the children react to their mother behaving as a woman, a sexual being, instead of a kept pet is painfully realistic. How do we survive our families, or without them? I could talk about this novel forever, the family dynamics alone bring up many topics. Jessalyn, what a fascinating story-line, I think many readers will recognize their own mother, or themselves in this tale. How different we are around our family, you want to know how resentments are born, how self-esteem sinks or an overabundance of confidence, misplaces pride, jealousies- here you go! I read this book months ago and wanted to wait closer to release date, and I am still thinking about it a. I know reading Joyce Carol Oates is an investment of time but I never put the book down without feeling like I just survived something. Whoa! Publication Date: June 9, 2020 Harper Collins Ecco

  12. 5 out of 5

    Tanya

    I'd never read anything by Joyce Carol Oates before this book—I was in fact under the mistaken impression that she was strictly a poet, not a novelist. I don't know where I got that notion, but I ended up completely enamored with this novel, and have now found a great author with a vast back-catalogue to explore. I was drawn to Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars. because of its eye-catching cover—two bright calla lilies starkly contrasting with a dark starry sky backdrop—coupled with the evocative, I'd never read anything by Joyce Carol Oates before this book—I was in fact under the mistaken impression that she was strictly a poet, not a novelist. I don't know where I got that notion, but I ended up completely enamored with this novel, and have now found a great author with a vast back-catalogue to explore. I was drawn to Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars. because of its eye-catching cover—two bright calla lilies starkly contrasting with a dark starry sky backdrop—coupled with the evocative, striking title, which is lifted from a short poem by Walt Whitman, titled A Clear Midnight: This is thy hour O Soul, thy free flight into the wordless, Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson done, Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering the themes thou lovest best, Night, sleep, death and the stars. The novel is centered around a single family, the McClarens, and is a deep, epic examination of their relationship with each other (and themselves) when the patriarch unexpectedly dies. The sudden tragedy affects each of them—Jessalyn, the widow, and the adult children Thom, Beverly, Lorene, Virgil, and Sophia—in very different, often completely out-of-character ways. I'm not going to pretend that I liked all the siblings (in fact, I actively disliked the three eldest), yet the inner world of all of them was distinct, unique, detailed, and utterly compelling. Jessalyn is the undisputed center of the novel, and with Oates being twice a widow herself (the sudden death of her first husband left her suicidal for months, and her second husband passed away a year prior to this novel's publication), her character shines the most brightly. Each child also contains multitudes, though, and felt real enough to touch; I've seldomly, if ever, read a novel about the complexities of domestic life that was so unflinchingly honest, realistic, and immersive as a result. "What do they matter, such miniature lives? (...) Beyond that, death. (...) There is comfort in this, that individuals matter so little, and yet are gripping each other's hand so tightly." The novel tries to do many things, which could've royally backfired, but it somehow never does: Oates turns a family death into an exploration of personal grief and trauma, but also of contemporary America, covering racial and class differences. In the beginning, I went slowly, and had to take myself out of the narrative often, because the descriptions of the loss were a lot to handle. I went through it myself two years ago, and the dazzling writing brought many things back... but once we enter the long-term "aftermath" and the slow healing, it was an absolutely engrossing pleasure to read about how each of the characters found their own path, away from under the shadow of the powerful husband/father, who, while not a bad, stifling person, was simply larger than life; eclipsing. Who are they, without him? They hurt at having lost him—they feel lost and untethered—but they are now finally free to find out.  This was ever so slightly out of my usual comfort zone, and I'm glad I allowed myself to judge a book by its cover, and plunged right in, without any preconceptions or ideas of what would await me; it was a breathtaking, remarkable novel. Note: I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. ————— All my book reviews can be found here · Buy on BookDepository

  13. 5 out of 5

    Erika Lynn (shelf.inspiration)

    ONE STAR "How we sift through ourselves, with others. Clasping at hands that turn transparent, that dissolve in our touch. Crying out No! Wait! Don't leave me, I can't live without you-and in the next instant they are gone, and we remain, alive." - Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars. SYNOPSIS: Night Sleep Death The Stars is a gripping examination of contemporary America through the prism of a family tragedy: when a powerful parent dies, each of his adult children reacts in startling and unexpected wa ONE STAR "How we sift through ourselves, with others. Clasping at hands that turn transparent, that dissolve in our touch. Crying out No! Wait! Don't leave me, I can't live without you-and in the next instant they are gone, and we remain, alive." - Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars. SYNOPSIS: Night Sleep Death The Stars is a gripping examination of contemporary America through the prism of a family tragedy: when a powerful parent dies, each of his adult children reacts in startling and unexpected ways and his grieving widow in the most surprising way of all. - Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars. REVIEW: Thank you to NetGalley, HarperCollins Publishers/ Ecco, and Joyce Carol Oates for providing me with an advanced reader copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This is a story about a family, a powerful loss, and the resulting grief and change from that loss. How a family can come together and fall apart in the wake of a death. Overall, I thought I would enjoy this book more than I did, and looking at other reviews it seems like the majority did like this book. For me, I found the plot of this book to be really thin, and it took me such a long time to get through this book. I found myself gravitating towards other books that I was also reading at the time instead of this one. This book is meant to be more on the slow side, but I felt that it didn't keep my attention enough and the emotional content to me was more irritating than captivating. I think my biggest struggle in the book was with the characters, I hated almost all of them. All the children in the family (maybe besides one) were horrible people in one way or another, and I found myself not being able to connect to any of them. It didn't make it better that a lot of the characters also hated each other. There was such a familial disconnect in this book, and half the time I begged the characters to just run and move away elsewhere. I also felt like the characters didn't see tremendous growth throughout the book. Their circumstances changed for sure, but I felt that they were more-or-less of the same person, still quite unhappy. Except for who I am calling the main character, Jessalyn, who did show growth and more change than anyone else. It was hard for me to make it through the book when I could not stand the characters and did not care about their stories. Another thing that bothered me was the (in my opinion) overuse of parenthesis. In one section of the book, I swear that at least half of some of the pages were contained in parentheses. It made the book feel so choppy and took me out of the story. However, towards the end of the book, this got a little better, so that makes me think that this was on purpose, but I didn't understand it. There were definitely some good parts of the book, and some good thoughts to ponder over, I just found these to be few and far between. I thought the ending was good and fit the tone of the rest of the book, although I do have some spoiler-like thoughts about it, which I won't share here. Overall, I am disappointed that I didn't like this book more! It was clear that this book was just not for me, and not something that I can really relate to at this stage in my life. I was looking forward to reading it, as I quite like longer books. Especially when they are about families and the dysfunctions in their lives. I may decide to look into Joyce Carol Oates' other books and see if any of those interest me since she seems to be a popular writer. RELEASE DATE: June 9, 2020

  14. 4 out of 5

    hayden

    I spent a lovely 48 hours in the grips of this thing. Main takeaway is that I must read more Oates because I kept doing that thing while reading this book where I'd set the book down and go into the kitchen and be genuinely startled by the time on the oven clock. Second takeaway, which is a question: how the hell does she do this? Every (read: six) Oates novel I've read has been densely populated with the most vibrantly real of people. I've known Jessalyn McC... (already, the names are slipping.. I spent a lovely 48 hours in the grips of this thing. Main takeaway is that I must read more Oates because I kept doing that thing while reading this book where I'd set the book down and go into the kitchen and be genuinely startled by the time on the oven clock. Second takeaway, which is a question: how the hell does she do this? Every (read: six) Oates novel I've read has been densely populated with the most vibrantly real of people. I've known Jessalyn McC... (already, the names are slipping...) McClaren for two days, and I'm walking away with a fourth grandmother. It has something to do, I'm sure, with Oates's ability to understand I've seen the word "saga" used quite a bit for this book, and it fits—essentially, a family's patriarch dies, and that loss snowballs out across the other family members' lives. Here are seven people—a father (deceased as inciting incident), a mother, five children—each with their own preoccupations and grudges and judgments and weaknesses and triumphs, and here are eight-hundred pages across which you can watch them lose their damn minds. Anyway, I'm very tired (?).

  15. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    Until my grandfather’s passing eight years ago I’d never experienced the “real” Peabody clan. My perception was that my father’s side had always loved one another’s company, exhibiting what on the surface appeared to be a steadfast loyalty common amongst large families. After all, at the various gatherings attended throughout my childhood the vibe they gave off was one of joviality. I’d hoped to one day emulate their rapport, their good-natured jabs and joke-telling, their boisterously festive n Until my grandfather’s passing eight years ago I’d never experienced the “real” Peabody clan. My perception was that my father’s side had always loved one another’s company, exhibiting what on the surface appeared to be a steadfast loyalty common amongst large families. After all, at the various gatherings attended throughout my childhood the vibe they gave off was one of joviality. I’d hoped to one day emulate their rapport, their good-natured jabs and joke-telling, their boisterously festive nature. The Peabodys were a PARTY, albeit a somewhat exclusive one; I was proud to have been an invitee. And yet for years my dad had eluded to there being “another side” to his brood, one that would eventually be exposed. When, was uncertain. So, I’d all but disregarded his warning and played dumb, letting my blissfully-ignorant teenage self continue to believe we’d established some semblance of Camelot. For the most part the idealism lived up to its task. Sure, with time I’d begun to notice some dents in the proverbial armor; little did I know it was a suit greatly tarnished, never to shine as it once had. William H. Peabody died at the age of 93 in August of 2012, leaving behind a wife of over 70 (!) years, 5 sons (along with another adopted one), and many, many grandchildren (myself being the first-born grandson). A WWII vet, he’d been at D-Day, and upon returning home worked for the auto industry like many other Detroiters in and of his time. To me, he was the kind, soft-spoken “Gramps” who (thankfully) acted as the yin to my grandmother’s yang, a man often quick to joke, yet never one to put others down. He had a delightful stutter that perpetuated when he grew animated, the volume of which inexplicably never rose above a whisper. I had just bought my first house when he’d fallen ill, and I vividly recall how excited he’d been for my wife and I once told. With his increasing age and diminishing health, it seemed a foregone conclusion my grandpa’s days were numbered, that he’d never get to see our new home for himself. Out buying furniture for said home my mother would call with news of his passing, never actually uttering those damning words; I knew simply by her timbre. It was a crushing blow, but one I took fairly well, for I’d known my grandfather had lived the fullest of full lives. What I didn’t know – and would soon come to find out – was that he’d been the glue to his own immediate family for a helluva lot longer than I’d been around. John “Whitey” McClaren and William Peabody are not by any means the same person. Yet their shared patriarchal status is so similar it all but negates their superficial differences; it’s why I couldn’t help but think of my dearly-departed grandfather upon reading Joyce Carol Oates’s latest masterpiece, Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars. Whitey too acted as the glue to his expansive brood, abiding over his wife and children and holding them together to resemble the ‘great American family’. But unlike Grandpa Bill, Whitey’s life is cut short. Set in upstate New York circa 2010, Oates opens her new work with a rather timely scenario – two policemen beating an innocent man of color – that sets the course for the remainder of her sprawling family saga. Driving home from a meeting Whitey witnesses this malfeasance occurring on the side of the road, and pulls over with hopes to putting a stop to it. Suffice to say, things go awry: the 67-year old well-to-do former mayor and publishing scion is mistaken for an ally of the beaten man and tasered, resulting in a stroke and subsequent hospitalization. Family members – wife of over 40 years, Jessalyn; oldest son, Thom; oldest daughter, Beverly; middle daughter, Lorene; youngest children, Sophia and Virgil – are contacted, the glue loosening upon each of their reactions. It’s when Whitey takes an unexpected turn for the worse – ultimately succumbing after two promising weeks of inpatient care – that the glue becomes completely unaffixed. Having been led to believe Whitey’s situation had occurred accidentally (by design, no report of Whitey’s altercation with police was ever made), the eldest McClaren child notices discrepancies in the narrative. Thom notes acid burns and mysterious markings on his father’s body, neither of which suggest a simple traffic accident. This being the day and age before capturing all traffic stops on video, it’s feared the truth will never come to light. And yet this is only the beginning, for it’s the resulting impact of Whitey’s death that makes up majority of Oates’ tale. While Thom becomes obsessed with bringing justice (and closure) to his father’s name (he reactively sues the police department both criminally and civilly), his siblings struggle in their own ways. Beverly is a busy-bodying stay-at-home-Mom who grows increasingly concerned with her mother’s well-being (amongst many other things); her ex-prom queen repugnancy is demonstrably off-putting and I couldn’t help but root against her. Lorene, a tough-nosed high school principal, is so wrapped up in maintaining her hardened exterior that she’s all but disregarded her responsibilities as an administrator. Smarty-pants Sophia has a different crisis of conscious with regards to her job as a scientist; tasked to kill lab animals for the sake of research, she has a sudden change of heart and quits her profession; that she’s in love with her married boss plays a part in this, too. Endearingly flaky Virgil, the artiste of the family, is coming to grips with losing a parent whom he’s convinced never liked him (or his direction in life) to begin with. And then there’s the McClaren matriarch, Jessalyn, who amounts to be one of the best female protagonists I’ve read in modern literature (no hyperbole). Oates paints a woman whose entire identity – that of a loyal wife and loving mother – had been founded upon her marriage and the family she’d helped build. Without Whitey, it’s feared she’d soon follow; her wayward direction in the wake of her husband’s death all but suggests it. And yet she approaches her grief differently than what’s expected of her (by her children, mostly), eschewing the disquiet nature synonymous with widowhood for one of resilience. Whether (frequently) conversing with Whitey’s spirit, tossing out his top-shelf liquor (yet squirreling away his pills), or adopting a giant, feral cat (affectionately named Mackie, short for Mack the Knife!!!), this resilience comes in several forms. Yet none are more notable than the relationship Jessalyn begins with Hugo Martinez, an esteemed photographer and poet with whom she has a chance meeting whilst visiting Whitey’s grave. This unexpected union only unglues the other McClarens further (the elder ones, at least), uncovering a level of racism and elitism that’s both alarming and sadly unsurprising. In fact, race and entitlement are arguably the two most dominant themes in a novel rife with them. While set 10 years in the past, Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars. is very much a novel of today (if not right here and now) in that it tackles many of the issues that have been plaguing society for centuries on end. And who better equipped to expound on such touchpoints than Joyce Carol Oates? The legendary author does so with a grace and fluidity that puts Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars. up there with her very best work. At 800 pages, it’s (obviously) a robust examination in which no stone goes unturned, and yet I was left feeling as though I could’ve devoured another 800. Because at the end of the day, and whether for better or for worse, grief knows no bounds. Eight years later I still miss my grandfather, but I miss the brood he’d helped construct just as much. Mind you, I’m better off – and likely a better person – now having become privy to all of my family’s flaws and inner-struggles; I suppose that’s the trade-off when the glue that holds it all together has reached its lasting power. I’m curious as to which, if any, of the McClarens would agree.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Cody | CodysBookshelf

    Major thanks to Ecco Books for the free ARC, which was given in exchange for an honest review! Joyce Carol Oates is far and away my favorite writer, living or dead, so I always jump on reading her new releases early (as if I don’t still have tons of her backlist to get to . .) You might think I’m biased; I’m not. I’ve given a few of her books negative reviews before—I’m not afraid to be honest. And I can honestly, happily say Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars. is one of Oates’s finest creations yet Major thanks to Ecco Books for the free ARC, which was given in exchange for an honest review! Joyce Carol Oates is far and away my favorite writer, living or dead, so I always jump on reading her new releases early (as if I don’t still have tons of her backlist to get to . .) You might think I’m biased; I’m not. I’ve given a few of her books negative reviews before—I’m not afraid to be honest. And I can honestly, happily say Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars. is one of Oates’s finest creations yet. While delving into familiar JCO territory (a family death, family dynamics, racial tensions, et cetera), it is the characters that set this one apart from anything else our finest living writer has written; the characters propel the plot(s) for this book’s almost-800 pages. The patriarch of a family is dead, and his widow and five (adult) children must deal with it, in all their own ways. Oates dives deep into the politics of living in a big family, the way alliances and grudges change, transform. The way families come together and pull apart. Each main character and some of the minor ones could have entire novels written about them. At first my favorite character was Virgil, the wandering artiste, in some ways the quintessential youngest child. He of unrest and unsolved sexual confusion. Then I fell for Jessalyn, the widow, and her struggle to move on beyond her husband’s absence. Then I settled on Lorene, the middle child—a harsh, paranoid school principal who comes (further) unraveled in her own way. In some ways this book is a spiritual cousin of Missing Mom, another favorite JCO novel of mine. But instead of dealing with the absence of a mother, this one deals with the absence of a father. Highly, highly recommended, this one is now firmly in my top five favorite Oates novels—and might just end up as my favorite new release of the year. This book releases in June, 2020.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Blankfein

    WOW! The writing...the characters...the stories...so engrossing! I loved all 787 pages of this incredible book! Full review to come on Book Nation by Jen.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Britta Böhler

    I was a bit onderwhelmed to be honest...

  19. 5 out of 5

    Vonda

    For fans of literary/general fiction that loves a meaty story, do yourself a favor and grab this as quickly as possible. Fans of Joyce Carol Oates, you are aware of her greatness. This is another great(er) family saga, one that she has drawn on her personal pain as a widow. She writes such a powerful main character Whitey, then his wife Jessalyn,tries to hold the family together in the face of tragedy. A great story you rarely see the likes of anymore.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Marjorie

    Superb. Ms. Oates' at her finest. Close contender of my favorite of this author's work - "We Were the Mulvaneys". I believe the character of the widow was a bit autobiographical from what I've read of Ms. Oate's life. The widow was my favorite character. Most highly recommended.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Bonnie Brody

    Joyce Carol Oates is not only inimitable and prolific, but she is an American icon of literature. She is able to write about the subtle nuances of people no matter what their race, socioeconomic background, or ethnicity. It is almost as if she has been graced with the ability to see into the human soul. This novel's title comes from the last line of 'A Clear Midnight', a poem by Walt Whitman. He is "pondering the themes thou lovest best" - night, sleep, death, the stars. Ms. Oates has captured th Joyce Carol Oates is not only inimitable and prolific, but she is an American icon of literature. She is able to write about the subtle nuances of people no matter what their race, socioeconomic background, or ethnicity. It is almost as if she has been graced with the ability to see into the human soul. This novel's title comes from the last line of 'A Clear Midnight', a poem by Walt Whitman. He is "pondering the themes thou lovest best" - night, sleep, death, the stars. Ms. Oates has captured the essence of this love as she grapples with loss, rebirth, darkness, and the infinite presence of love, both present, past, and eternal. The novel is about the McClaren family, a well-to-do family of two adults and five grown children. On his way home from work, Whitey, the family patriarch, sees a dark skinned man being unfairly assaulted by police officers. Whitey (so nicknamed for the color of his hair), stops his car and asks the police to relent in their assault. The police tell him to get back in his car and go away. Whitey refuses and the police turn on him, tasering him repeatedly, kicking and beating him into unconsciousness. The police, realizing they have gone too far, call 911 and Whitey is taken to the hospital under the pretenses that he had a stroke or heart attack. The only witness is the man who was the original target of the police who happens to be a doctor in the same hospital where Whitey resides in a coma. Ms. Oates depicts, in minutiae and through a macro lens, the depths of feeling and unique character of each family member. There is Jessalyn, Whitey's wife, and five grown children, I felt like I grew to know them all. The character development over time is astonishingly perspicacious and relevant to the family dynamics and the impact of external circumstances that each of the family members is grappling with. This novel, at almost 800 pages, is a tome and I loved almost every single bit of it. Parts of it reminded me of Ms. Oates' memoir 'A Widow's Story' as she describes the torment and hopelessness that ravages Jessalyn. Not all the characters are likable and some are downright despicable, Every person in the novel is unique. This is a novel to savor, if that is possible. I found it hard to put down and looked forward to reading it every day. Ms. Oates has an absolute ability to portray family dynamics realistically, somewhat like a trompe l'oeil painting. As a clinical social worker and family therapist, I can vouch for that. This novel is prescient, as if Ms. Oates had twenty-twenty foresight into the future. Today's news could have been based on this novel. The brutality of the police, the profiling of the doctor, the assault on a witness, and the ultimate covering up of the truth rings so true. Thank you Ms. Oates for this wonderful reading experience.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mary Robinson

    This tome delves into family relations when a strong patriarch dies and each member reacts differently to his/her own grief and the grief of siblings, spouses, children, and parents. Whitey MacClaren dies following a stroke - but the initial pages delie the circumstances of that stroke. As his conditions improves and then plummets, his wife and five adult children surround his bedside and pray for his recovery. And each reacts differently to his condition and eventually to his loss. This is a bo This tome delves into family relations when a strong patriarch dies and each member reacts differently to his/her own grief and the grief of siblings, spouses, children, and parents. Whitey MacClaren dies following a stroke - but the initial pages delie the circumstances of that stroke. As his conditions improves and then plummets, his wife and five adult children surround his bedside and pray for his recovery. And each reacts differently to his condition and eventually to his loss. This is a book with out resolutions in some ways. Many questions are left unanswered about how and if the players will rise above their grief, their relationshisp, their mistakes. I'll be mulling this for quite some time.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Briana

    This just wasn't my cup of tea. I stopped reading it and it took me weeks to pick it back up and finish it. Thank you to NetGalley, Ecco, and HarperCollins for the ARC in exchange for an honest review of Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars. by Joyce Carol Oates. The main thing is that the writing feels amateur to say that JCO is such a titan in the literary community. The characters are unlikable and not in a fun way. I also didn't care for the alternative look on police brutality done on a wealthy w This just wasn't my cup of tea. I stopped reading it and it took me weeks to pick it back up and finish it. Thank you to NetGalley, Ecco, and HarperCollins for the ARC in exchange for an honest review of Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars. by Joyce Carol Oates. The main thing is that the writing feels amateur to say that JCO is such a titan in the literary community. The characters are unlikable and not in a fun way. I also didn't care for the alternative look on police brutality done on a wealthy white Republican man. I can somewhat understand what was trying to be done and there were some interesting parts with the family dynamic but it was just a boring look at bad things happening to a miserable family. I just don't think it's the narrative needed at this moment.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    An 800 page book doesn't scare me. Some of my favorite books are whoppers. The number of pages are irrelevant when one becomes immersed in detailed characters, propelled by foreshadowing through their actions and weaknesses, touched by universal truths of human nature. Oates latest novel explores the impact of death on a family. I was sucked into the story, eagerly looking forward to reading and learning more about these characters. To discover if I was right about what would come. Night. Sleep. Dea An 800 page book doesn't scare me. Some of my favorite books are whoppers. The number of pages are irrelevant when one becomes immersed in detailed characters, propelled by foreshadowing through their actions and weaknesses, touched by universal truths of human nature. Oates latest novel explores the impact of death on a family. I was sucked into the story, eagerly looking forward to reading and learning more about these characters. To discover if I was right about what would come. Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars. begins with the sudden death of a family patriarch. Whitey stopped to investigate what appeared, and was, a case of police profiling and brutality. He was their next victim. He did not survive. Whitey was 67---my age. He was his wife Jessalyn's reason for existence, her lodestone; he defined her. In deep shock, she plummets into a private despair hidden behind her self-effacing thoughtfulness for others. The children, as children do, decide what must be done, how their mother should 'be', and when her actions do not conform with expectations, they reel off into obsessions and fears and anger. The family balance is thrown off. The children carry their individual burdens. Some believed they were 'favorite' sons or daughters, while others strove to gain their father's approval. One had given up trying. After many months, a man enters Jessalyn's life who takes her under his care. She rejects his attentions in horror, but allows him to slowly change her, alter her, and bring her back into the land of the living. The children are incensed, complain to each other, demand someone do something. Mom has been acting incorrectly. Mom has chosen the wrong man. Mom has a feral cat in the house. Oh, I have seen this! The children who resent the second spouse. I myself scared off a woman who had set her sights on my newly widowed father! Yes, I did! I was increasingly horrified as the novel got darker and darker, delving into the black hearts of these children. They are murderers and self-abusers and suicidal misfits and long-suffering, angry wives. Each sibling must find their way out of their despair and illness. I expected Jessalyn to change into a 'modern heroine', evolving into her own woman. To leave passivity behind. She finds happiness, but not growth. This story disturbed my sleep. It was an emotional journey. I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley. My review is fair and unbiased.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia

    4.75. I can’t believe I read the whole thing! It was worth it.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jo Dervan

    Well I made it through this long (800 pages) book in which the author examines how the unexpected death of a powerful man can affect his family. This book has been compared to We Were the Mulvaneys, where a series of bad things happen to a family of good people after a tragedy. Actually it is the opposite in that mostly bad things happen to unlikeable people after the patriarch’s death. Whitey McLaren, a prominent businessman in a small upstate NY city, died after an altercation with local police Well I made it through this long (800 pages) book in which the author examines how the unexpected death of a powerful man can affect his family. This book has been compared to We Were the Mulvaneys, where a series of bad things happen to a family of good people after a tragedy. Actually it is the opposite in that mostly bad things happen to unlikeable people after the patriarch’s death. Whitey McLaren, a prominent businessman in a small upstate NY city, died after an altercation with local police. He had stopped to protest the treatment of a dark skinned Indian doctor and ended up being tased himself. Whitey never recovered and died after a few weeks. The lives of each his 5 children changed drastically after his death. However his wife, a placid woman who adored him and relied on him for everything, had a complete breakdown after the death. This book examines grief, racial injustice, psychological trauma and healing after a death in a family. The author may have based this upon her own life when the death of her first husband caused her to contemplate suicide. However she does not have children and may not have understood how family support makes a difference in times like this. I am speaking from experience as one who has grieved recently. I did not enjoy this book as much as others the author has written. I felt it was much too long and I also felt that there were no characters to cheer for. This ARC was provided by the publisher and Edelweiss in return for an honest review.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Onceinabluemoon

    I listened to this 800 page audiobook, even at double speed the words felt slow and languishing, to be honest I didn't care for any of her children, but oh how I loved this book. I felt like I was a fly on the wall, sitting at their kitchen table, ease dropping in the hall, pacing the hospital hallways, the writing had me there and present for every moment. It is socially relevant, even jarring, I wondered at page 700 how on earth she was going to wrap up this book, listening I had no idea I was I listened to this 800 page audiobook, even at double speed the words felt slow and languishing, to be honest I didn't care for any of her children, but oh how I loved this book. I felt like I was a fly on the wall, sitting at their kitchen table, ease dropping in the hall, pacing the hospital hallways, the writing had me there and present for every moment. It is socially relevant, even jarring, I wondered at page 700 how on earth she was going to wrap up this book, listening I had no idea I was at the end and literally gasped that this family was no longer part of my daily encounters. I would gladly listen to this families saga for another 800 pages, annually, as long as the mother lives I will forever be curious.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    If ever there was bad timing for a book's release, it is the release date of Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars. by Joyce Carol Oates. With its discussion of police brutality and bigotry, one would think it is a perfect time to publish the book. However, the police brutality, in this case, occurs against a wealthy, white family patriarch, which feels more like a declaration of "All Lives Matter" rather than a timely story that contributes to the fight against racist police violence. Also, the tragedy If ever there was bad timing for a book's release, it is the release date of Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars. by Joyce Carol Oates. With its discussion of police brutality and bigotry, one would think it is a perfect time to publish the book. However, the police brutality, in this case, occurs against a wealthy, white family patriarch, which feels more like a declaration of "All Lives Matter" rather than a timely story that contributes to the fight against racist police violence. Also, the tragedy that befalls this larger-than-life patriarch is only the impetus for the rest of the story, which is, in fact, more about the dissolution of the family at the father's death. Granted, the scene of his beating is horrible. It is rare for a scene of violence to bother me in a story, but I had a very difficult time pushing through that scene, which occurs within the first few chapters. I almost opted to mark it as a DNF because the scene was so uncomfortable. However, it is a brief flash in an over-long story, seen and then passed over for his death and the aftermath. The rest of the novel follows the five children and wife of the patriarch as they each struggle to cope with his passing and his impact on their lives. We quickly find that three of the children are horrible human beings. Selfish, angry, racist, and wholly absorbed in maintaining the status quo, you find those scenes that focus on them to be just as uncomfortable as the police beating. They hide behind their white privilege and ability to donate money to worthy causes to justify their racism and abhor anyone who may actually comingle with someone of another skin color, including their mother. If that were not bad enough, the scenes that focus on the widow and her grief drag on interminably. I read the novel for over an hour one night and still did not get through that first rush of grief the widow experiences. At some point, you no longer care about her suffering and her utter lack of interest in life. As callous as it sounds, you just want the scene to end so that the story would move forward. In the background of all this is the fact that the family files a lawsuit against the local police department who caused their father's death. It truly is in the background of the novel, mentioned only as a point of the eldest's anger and obsession. Here is another example of where the story's release may not be the most timely. The McClaren family is wealthy. They can afford to seek legal justice for their father, but they are the exception. Ms. Oates discusses the expense associated with such lawsuits and how they can last for years. There are very few families who can afford to take on such cases and pointing out this fact seems rather tactless. Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars. is too much of everything. It is too long. Ms. Oates drags out certain scenes, like the widow's grief and battle to simply survive after her husband's death so that they feel never-ending. Three of the siblings are too selfish. The family exhibits too much bigotry and hatred towards those who are not among the family's class. Ms. Oates tries to soften this through various love interests and a burgeoning interest in social justice within the widow, but it does not feel enough. No one calls the three siblings on their white privilege. The family receives closure in their lawsuit, again something that just does not happen in real life. The entire story made me feel uncomfortable, and not because it forced me to look at my own ignorance regarding racism. I don't feel that the story contributes anything to the Black Lives Matter movement. In fact, as I previously said, it feels more like a statement that white people can suffer at the hands of the police as well, which is the epitome of those who declare "All Lives Matter." I finished Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars. rather disgusted with the family, the story in general, and the publisher for releasing the novel. I know Ms. Oates is a literary darling, but this is simply the wrong story for the current situation within the United States right now.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Diana

    Easily my book of the year (so far) for 2020. Timely, and timeless, saga of a family coping with the loss of the patriarch. Such believable characters, some of them likable, others not so much. Truly, the best kind of book for me — long and totally absorbing from the first page. I hated for it to end.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Teresa

    Thank you Netgalley for this ARC of Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars. by Joyce Carol Oates. Holy moly, this was by first book by Oates and I was SWEPT AWAY in this family drama. Initially I was scared by how long it was, but after time it didn't matter because I was an honorary member of the McLaren family. Being a fly on the wall of that family was never boring. The story begins when community mogul and past mayor John "Whitey" McLaren pulls to the side of the road witnessing police officers using Thank you Netgalley for this ARC of Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars. by Joyce Carol Oates. Holy moly, this was by first book by Oates and I was SWEPT AWAY in this family drama. Initially I was scared by how long it was, but after time it didn't matter because I was an honorary member of the McLaren family. Being a fly on the wall of that family was never boring. The story begins when community mogul and past mayor John "Whitey" McLaren pulls to the side of the road witnessing police officers using shocking and excessive force on a young Indian man. Determined to diffuse the interaction, Whitey himself ends up a victim of police brutality. From there, the rest of the McLaren family is forced to come together, confront past, and new demons, and hopefully regain peace after a difficult time. I really love family dramas. Every family has different dynamics, but also every family has conflict and troubles. It's so interesting to see how every family functions differently. This was such an amazing opportunity for that. All of the characters react similarly to each other, but also so different, often finding themselves on the brink of hysteria and ruin. I genuinely grieved when it ended. Just a warning, for I am often told that I read dark and sad books (a fair assessment). While this has lighter moments, it is not a light book. I can't say that it will uplift you, but if you let yourself dive in, it will take you away.

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