You don't need to read more than the first short chapter of this novella to find yourself amazed by the author's ability to construct a story. The first chapter begins with the quote above and slowly but surely leads the reader through the events around which the entire novella revolves: the rape of Teena Maguire, witnessed by her 12-year-old daughter, and the consequent court case and public disapproval - towards Teena, the victim.
The first chapter sets the tone of the entire novel. At first, the story is told from a sympathetic point of view, but it soon changes into an opposing perspective, echoing the opinions of the people who are against Teena:
After she'd teased them. Provoked them. Bad judgment. Must've been drinking. The way she was dressed. The way Teena Maguire often dressed. Summer nights, especially.
Finally, the tone becomes accusing, angry:
What kind of mother would drag her young daughter with her to a drunken party and then on foot through Rocky Point Park at that hour, what kind of poor judgment, she's lucky it wasn't worse what happened to her, and what happened to the girl, [...]
The first chapter ends with a repetition of the beginning and with the narrator addressing Teena's daughter, Bethel:
Some of the things that would be said of your mother Teena Maguire after she was gang-raped, kicked and beaten and left to die on the floor of the filthy boathouse at Rocky Point Park in the early minutes of July 5, 1996.
Now that I've quoted far too much of the novella, I'll make my review short: read this book! It is about the rape of a woman, yes. But it is also - as the name implies - a kind of love story. The Finnish translation of the title is Kosto, or Revenge - which is also an understandable choice, but reduces the provocative shock factor of the name. The novella tackles an important and controversial social theme: the treatment of rape victims and the surprisingly insignificant penalties that rapists receive in court.
I've read two books by Joyce Carol Oates before, several years ago. Zombie was a disturbing psychological thriller about a serial killer and Black Water was a strange story about a young woman who meets an interesting man, gets into the car with him and soon finds herself drowning as the car crashes off the road and into the water. I don't remember very much about those books, except that I was half horrified, half impressed by the stories.
Joyce Carol Oates: Rape: A Love Story. Carroll & Graf. 2003.
Celestial Timepiece: Joyce Carol Oates' Home Page
Harper Collins: Joyce Carol Oates
Wikipedia: Joyce Carol Oates
Buy Rape: A Love Story from The Book Depository