Cressida Mayfield, 19 years old and the “smart one” in her family, was last seen with her sister’s ex-fiancé, Brett Kincaid. She is now missing, there are traces of blood in his car, and he is suffering from an alcohol-induced blackout. Kincaid is also an Iraq War veteran with severe injuries and PTSD.
Chronically an outsider, Cressida has grown up in the shadow of her sister Juliet’s persona: beautiful, well-behaved, and dedicated to Kincaid’s physical and emotional recovery. Her mother, Arlette, has always been frustrated by this child whose words and behavior were often incomprehensible to her. Zeno Mayfield is unable to accept his daughter’s death even after Kincaid confesses.
Oates has always been masterful at depicting the cracks that appear in individuals and families in times of great stress, loss, and suffering. The characters feel real and recognizable in their emotions and subsequent choices. I could only sit back and ache as I watched them grieve in solitude instead of coming together and sustaining each other.
The story takes some decidedly odd turns, but more can’t be said for fear of spoilers. Let it be said that in Carthage, Oates takes us down difficult paths that demand examination of our own values and ideas while trying to understand those of the characters in the story.
I have been a follower of Oates for 30+ years. She’s generally not easy, but she’s also not to be missed.
Other Oates titles:
Because it is Bitter and Because it is My Heart
We Were the Mulvaneys
Do With Me What You Will