Some things never cease to amaze me. How books like this ever get published is one of them. Had it not been written by such a famous author, I doubt it would have made it past an agent. The writing is weak and bland, the storyline heavily disguised in a mess of mind-numbing filler that serves no purpose whatsoever.
For example: We're given directions on how to get to the family farm from Route 58, first the shortcut then the long route (or maybe the other way around), a blow by blow account of every street, every turn - take another right and a left and a right at the square... This went on for THREE pages.
She spent two pages on clocks, all the clocks that were "busily tick-tick-ticking" through the house, describing each one ad nauseam, from the "Chautauqua Valley steeple pendulum clock of the 1850s" to the "small cream-colored ceramic mantel clock with garlands of tiny painted rosebuds, golden pendulum and delicate hands, a chime like the sweetest of birdcalls."
If this review is putting you to sleep, try reading 400 pages of the stuff. To make matters worse, the story is written in first person, a 30-year-old male, supposedly, who often sounds more like the stereotypical doddering old lady. He relays details, page after relentless page, that he couldn't possibly know, unless he was able to clone himself and be in more than one place at a time. No room for suspension of disbelief here, I'm afraid.
On the cover, the Chicago Tribune calls this book "Oates's finest." If that's really the case, I can't imagine her worst. If I could give this book zero stars, I would.