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Garden of Earthly Delights, A
Author/Editor: Joyce Carol Oates
ISBN: 0814901719
Year Published: 1967
Format: Hardcover, Paperback 
Description: This is Joyce Carol Oates' second published novel. It is where she proved her ability to write a powerful epic as she would later do again in novels such as Bellefleur. It follows the life of Clara, a woman born to migrant workers in the midst of the Depression. She is born appropriately in the middle of a violent accident. Here we see the delicacy and terrifying indifference of human life swept up in a sea of natural transformation. Children, parents and friends die in this bleak Darwinian environment. It is part of the course and they must accept it as they move to the next field where labour is required. Clara grows into a defensive and powerful woman bent on carving a safe space for herself in this harsh world. She falls in love with a man named Lowry who is independent and intelligent. Through him Clara establishes a new life for herself. Only after the birth of their son, Swan (Steven), must she make the decision whether to join with a wealthy restricted life with a man named Revere or lead a life of tumultuous romance with Lowry. Through Swan, Clara attempts to realise all the desires for living which were denied to her in her restricted upbringing. However, Swan, intelligent and emotional, has desires of an entirely different sort. This is a compelling novel that knowledgably explores the multifarious stages of life: the tense exploration of childhood, the embittered compromises of adulthood and the difficult choices we must make to survive. It is a beautifully crafted work.