Little Bird of Heaven
Joyce Carol Oates
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‘A writer of extraordinary strengths’ Guardian
Set in the mythical small city of Sparta, New York, this searing, vividly rendered exploration of the mysterious conjunction of erotic romance and tragic violence in late 20th-century America.
When a young wife and mother named Zoe Kruller is found brutally murdered, the Sparta police target two primary suspects: her estranged husband Delray and her longtime lover Eddy Diehl. In turn, the Krullers's son Aaron and Eddy's daughter Krista become obsessed with one another, each believing the other's father is guilty.
Told in halves in the very different voices of Krista and Aaron, Little Bird of Heaven is classic Joyce Carol Oates, in which the lyricism of intense sexual love is intertwined with the anguish of loss, and tenderness is barely distinguishable from cruelty. By the novel's end, the fated lovers, meeting again as adults, are at last ready to exorcise the ghosts of the past and come to terms with their legacy of guilt, misplaced love and redemptive yearning.
With Little Bird of Heaven, Joyce Carol Oates once again confirms her place as one of the most outstanding writers at work today.
smiling at customers might’s well be a cocktail waitress. There’s tips! I’ll get my chance one day. I know this. I am not a superstitious person. Or a religious person. But I believe. You must have faith in your destiny. You must not doubt. At Checkers there’s a different clientele. More money, and classier, than the rest of the Strip. The owner has promised me, some Friday nights I can sing. A lot can happen. How’s my husband feel about his wife working out at the Strip?—ask him. And ask
house a few minutes before—also he’d heard Delray on the phone, his voice raised—seeing now what had upset his father for there on the front page of the paper was the prominent headline— SPARTA PD: NO NEW “LEADS” IN KRULLER HOMICIDE —and there was Zoe Kruller, Victim of Unsolved ’83 Slaying beneath the photograph the Journal had printed how many times Krull could not bear seeing it again!—yet stood hunched over the table, staring. It was terrible to think—a full year had passed. A full
Aar-on! been missing you while Krull remained stony-faced, unsmiling. As if not recognizing her. That would freak the woman. But Jacky DeLucca never returned to Quarry Road so far as Krull knew. As if she’d given up looking for Delray Kruller or had found him some other way and Krull would be the last to know about it. Maybe it was a relief, Zoe wasn’t living with them any longer. Zoe would strip Krull’s bed to launder his sheets seeing splotches of stiffened mucus everywhere and the mattress
Krull still dreamt of that female he had not seen since. He’d never found out if Delray had been the one who’d beaten DeLucca. It wasn’t something you could ask of your old man. Never found out if, before Eddy Diehl had been shot down, he actually had confessed to killing Zoe. If that was maybe why he’d been shot down. But the story had been altered afterward. Out of spite, to ruin Delray Kruller. Out of spite, Delray’s enemies in the sheriff’s department. Some boyfriend of Zoe’s cousin, that
time—brought Krull to Quarry Road and to his home, he had not thought he would ever see again; and late that afternoon at the garage the phone rang in Delray’s office and Krull answered it and it was a girl’s breathy voice in his ear, Sarabeth informing Krull that Dutch Boy wanted him to know there were no “hard feelings” or a “wish for retribution” on his side and that the problem had been “dealt with”—buried in a rotted old mound of hay and manure behind the barn. To this, Krull could think of