Joyce Carol Oates’s Wonderland Quartet comprises four remarkable novels that explore social class in America and the inner lives of young Americans. In A Garden of Earthly Delights , Oates presents one of her most memorable heroines, Clara Walpole, the beautiful daughter of Kentucky-born migrant farmworkers. Desperate to rise above her haphazard existence of violence and poverty, determined not to repeat her mother’s life, Clara struggles for independence by way of her relationships with four very different men: her father, a family man turned itinerant laborer, smoldering with resentment; the mysterious Lowry, who rescues Clara as a teenager and offers her the possibility of love; Revere, a wealthy landowner who provides Clara with stability; and Swan, Clara’s son, who bears the psychological and spiritual burden of his mother’s ambition.
A masterly work from a writer with “the uncanny ability to give us a cinemascopic vision of her America” ( National Review ), A Garden of Earthly Delights is the opening stanza in what would become one of the most powerful and engrossing story arcs in literature.
A Garden of Earthly Delights is the first novel in the Wonderland Quartet. The books that complete this acclaimed series, Expensive People , them, and Wonderland , are also available from the Modern Library.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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|Title of eBook: A Garden of Earthly Delights|
|Release Date: 03-25-2009|
|Allowed Countries (hover)|
|Publisher: Random House Publishing Group|
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|Parent title||A Garden of Earthly...|
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A Garden of Earthly Delights
Arkansas. On that day many years ago a rattling Ford truck carrying twenty-nine farmworkers and their children sideswiped a local truck carrying hogs to Little Rock on a rain-slick country highway. It was a shimmering-green day in late May, the Ford truck ended up on its side in a three-foot drainage ditch, and in the hazy rain everyone milled about in the road amid broken glass, a familiar stink of gasoline and a spillage of hog excrement. Yet, among those who hadn’t been hurt, the predominant mood was jocular.
Carleton Walpole would long remember: the skidding on the wet blacktop, the noise of brakes like a guinea hen’s shrieking, the sick weightless sensation before impact. The terrified screams of children and women, then the angry shouts of the men. By the time the truck overturned into the ditch most of the younger and more agile of the farmworkers had leapt clear, while the older, the slower, most of the women and younger children, struggled with the tarpaulin roof and had to crawl out on their hands and knees like beasts onto the soft red clay shoulder. Another goddamned “accident”: this wasn’t the first since they’d left Breathitt County, Kentucky, a few weeks ago, but it wasn’t the worst, either. No one appeared to be seriously injured, bleeding or unconscious.
“Pearl? Where the hell are you?”—Carleton had been one of the first to jump from the truck, but he was anxious about his wife; she was pregnant, with their third child, and the baby was due soon. “Pearl! Pearl!” Carleton yelled. His heart was beating like something trapped in his rib cage. He was angry, excited. Always you fe