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Like most important writers—Joyce, Proust, Mann—she has an absolute identification with her material: the spirit of a society at a crucial point in its history.


Selected by The New York Times Book Review as one of the most notable books of 1991 and now available as a New Directions paperbook, Joyce Carol Oates’ The Rise of Life on Earth is a memorable portrait of one of the "insulted and injured" of American society. Set in the underside of working-class Detroit of the ’60s and ’70s, this short, intense novel sketches Kathleen Hennessy’s violent childhood and follows her into her early adult years as a hospital health-care worker. Overworked, underpaid, and quietly overzealous, Kathleen falls in love with a young doctor, whose exploitation of her sets the course of the remainder of her life, in which her passivity masks a deep fury and secret resolve to take revenge.

The Rise of Life on Earth

Fiction by Joyce Carol Oates

published September 1st, 1992