Babysitter by Joyce Carol Oates

Published: 2022 Penguin Random House | Harper Collins Mystery

Hannah Jarrett is a privileged, attractive white woman living in Detroit with her husband and two young children. When she meets a stranger at a fundraising function, she is seduced into meeting him secretly in his hotel room. The story is set in the 1970s against a background of unsolved serial killings of young children, the killer dubbed the “Babysitter”. The narrative alternates between Hannah’s story, and Mikey, a street-smart youth who has a connection with Hannah’s lover.


This author often writes about very dark themes, and this one is no exception. I think the ending is masterfully written and very satisfying. The content is dark and disturbing…sexual assault, serial killers, racism, and more, and the author’s writing is intense. But, the New York Times thinks that: “Even for a writer of Oates’s prolific expertise, taking on so many sensitive, controversial topics is a gargantuan task; it’s one that this fragmented novel does not ultimately pull off.” The Guardian comments on the author’s writing style: “a piece of work that is light yet dense, frenzied in its detail yet somehow also cool, measured and abstract. She’ll happily devote five pages to what can only amount to a minute or two of a character’s experience (one reason her novels are rarely short) but in so doing will take you straight to the heart of a moment.”


“And you were opposed to having a gun in the house at all! Imagine, if our house was ‘invaded’ and we didn’t have a weapon to defend ourselves, and couldn’t get to it quickly …”

“As the sleek glass cubicle ascended swiftly and unhesitatingly to the sixty-first floor, so she makes her way to the suite that is his. A faint odor of cigar smoke in her hair, in her nostrils that pinch with nausea so remote as to be merely residual, memory. What is she wearing? A costume she has chosen with care, white linen is always discreet, a silk shirt, red silk Dior scarf gaily at her throat.”

Author: Joyce Carol Oates

Image: Hotel door Unsplash

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