The problem I had with this book initially was that the tales weren't so much of mystery and suspense as the line on the book jacket states, but rather stories of women doing bad or wrong things that made you - often times - feel bad or wrong inside. Don't misunderstand, the author still wrote exceptionally well, I don't think she knows how to put out a poorly-written book, it is just that the stories are not up-lifting or feel-good stories. I guess it is like going to a really good scary movie and having that sort-of creeped out, bad feeling inside when you leave the theatre -- but you still say it was a good movie. So if you like that kind of movie, I think you would like this book!
I think the short story I liked the best was the last one in the book: 'Angel of Mercy'. It was written from the perspective of two different nurses working at the same hospital - one only known as R-- from today and Agnes from the 1950's. Agnes you quickly learn killed her suffering patients and is said to haunt the hospital. It is up to you to determine if she is haunting R--.
Another of my favorites was 'Doll: A Romance of the Mississippi'. In this story Doll is the moniker of a teenager who plays the part of an 11-year old girl who is sold to men by her father for 'look-only/no-touch' one-night stands up and down the Mississippi . She gets even every once in a while by killing the john in really bad ways. The only thing missing from this story is a really good detective to hunt down Doll and her Dad!
I also liked 'Angel of Wrath' because it played with your emotions of wanting a good ending. This story was about Gilead a young man, who appears to be very disturbed. He is fascinated with Katrina: a new, single mother. He follows her everywhere and ends up scaring her because no matter where she goes he is always standing there, watching her. Gilead tries to explain that he doesn't mean to scare her and that he won't hurt her, he is just in love with her. She of course doesn't believe him and continues to be scared of him.
One day she gets so mad she shoots him in the leg with a .22, but then is remorseful and invites him into her house and feeds him dinner. From there a friendship starts between Gilead and Katrina and she begins to trust him. This is where you - the reader - start to think this is the one story that will have a nice ending. But Katrina manipulates Gilead to do something very bad for her and he does it. They continue to have a friendship and so it seems that it has a nice ending, but based on what Gilead had to do for Katrina you have to ask yourself, how nice was it really?
If you have been reading my book reviews for any length of time you will know that I am a stalwart Joyce Carol Oates fan. When I first started reading this book I had a hard time with it because a lot of the story subjects were so distasteful, but by the time I finished the book I had to admit I was hooked. Hooked on another set of fine-tuned and twisted short stories!
Rating: 7/ 10
Edition: 1st Edition / 1st Printing