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A Book of American Martyrs
Cover of A Book of American Martyrs
A Book of American Martyrs
A Novel
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In this striking, enormously affecting novel, Joyce Carol Oates tells the story of two very different and yet intimately linked American families. Luther Dunphy is an ardent Evangelical who envisions...
In this striking, enormously affecting novel, Joyce Carol Oates tells the story of two very different and yet intimately linked American families. Luther Dunphy is an ardent Evangelical who envisions...
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  • In this striking, enormously affecting novel, Joyce Carol Oates tells the story of two very different and yet intimately linked American families. Luther Dunphy is an ardent Evangelical who envisions himself as acting out God's will when he assassinates an abortion provider in his small Ohio town while Augustus Voorhees, the idealistic doctor who is killed, leaves behind a wife and children scarred and embittered by grief.

    In her moving, insightful portrait, Joyce Carol Oates fully inhabits the perspectives of two interwoven families whose destinies are defined by their warring convictions and squarely-but with great empathy-confronts an intractable, abiding rift in American society.

    A Book of American Martyrs is a stunning, timely depiction of an issue hotly debated on a national stage but which makes itself felt most lastingly in communities torn apart by violence and hatred.

About the Author-

  • Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Medal of Humanities, the National Book Critics Circle Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, the National Book Award, and the 2019 Jerusalem Prize, and has been several times nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. She has written some of the most enduring fiction of our time, including the national bestsellers We Were the Mulvaneys; Blonde, which was nominated for the National Book Award; and the New York Times bestseller The Falls, which won the 2005 Prix Femina. She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University and has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    December 12, 2016
    On Nov. 2, 1999 in Muskegee Falls, Ohio, a self-described “soldier of God” named Luther Dunphy loads a shotgun, drives to an abortion clinic near his home, and guns down Dr. Augustus Voorhees as he arrives at work. In this chilling novel, bestselling author Oates (Carthage) approaches one of America’s enduringly divisive topics through the lens of a sprawling family epic. The bulk of the novel deals with the shooting’s aftermath and its impact on the daughters of Dunphy and Voorhees—two women whose lives are permanently shifted by their fathers’ legacy for opposite sides of the contentious abortion-rights debate. Divided into five sections, the book begins by delving into the lives of Dunphy (now on death row) and Voorhees before the narrative finally coalesces around Naomi Voorhees’s floundering attempts to understand her family, leading her to a career in documentary filmmaking and a surprising connection with Dawn “The Hammer of Jesus” Dunphy, whose anger and aggression propel her into a championship-level boxing career. Unfortunately, some of the emotional nuance is thinly developed, with the majority of the characters standing as archetypes of opposing worldviews. Nevertheless, Oates’s sprawling tale presents a sensitively painted portrait of the inextricable quality of grief and the weight of family legacy, showing how unexpected connections can bind people together in counterintuitive ways.

  • AudioFile Magazine Oates's novel gives listeners a well-timed and insightful look at the mental state of a zealous evangelical who kills a doctor who performs abortions. In this moving attempt to tell the story in an all-encompassing and objective way, narrators Neil Hellegers, Tavia Gilbert, and Kirsten Potter portray intertwined families as they cope with the assassination. A remorseful tone permeates the ensemble narration, especially in the portrayals of both main characters, whose fervent belief in their missions is frightening. Empathetically depicted as heartfelt warriors, they personify one of our nation's most polarizing issues. R.O. � AudioFile 2017, Portland, Maine
  • Library Journal

    Starred review from January 1, 2017

    In 1999 in rural Ohio, "Army of God" antiabortionist Luther Dunphy assassinates OB/GYN Gus Voorhees and his volunteer driver outside of the clinic where Dr. Voorhees provides abortions. The families of the two men are torn apart as wives and children are left to deal with the aftermath, with Oates's narrative moving among Luther's account of his life before and after the killing and the lives of his daughter, Dawn, and Gus's daughter, Naomi. Naomi's and Dawn's converging paths as aspiring documentary filmmaker and promising boxer are particularly compelling as each young woman battles her demons and holds the hope for some future reconciliation. The result is a timely tale of two divided American families and their respective journeys through the grief of losing fathers, sons, and husbands. VERDICT Best-selling, award-winning author Oates (We Were the Mulvaneys) hardly needs introduction, and her satisfying, multilayered offering will surely be in demand. Book groups would do well to add this to their springtime fare for lively discussion material. In the light of recent American political events, questions put forward by Oates's latest should be addressed, even if clear answers may be hard to find. [See Prepub Alert, 8/15/16.]--Jennifer B. Stidham, Houston Community Coll. Northeast

    Copyright 2017 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Library Journal

    September 15, 2016

    In this timely and morally stringent new work, hard-believing evangelical Luther Dunphy claims to be carrying out God's will when he assassinates small-town abortion provider Augustus Voorhees, who believed that he was offering an essential health service. Oates examines the convictions of murderer and victim and the unfolding difficulties for their families. With a 100,000-copy first printing.

    Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    December 1, 2016
    Wounded families survive two men's martyrdom.Once again drawn to America's heart of darkness, Oates (The Man Without a Shadow, 2016, etc.) takes on the incendiary issue of abortion in a long, contorted, and ultimately unsatisfying tale focused on the killing of Gus Voorhees, an abortion provider, by Luther Dunphy, an evangelical. The shooting itself interests Oates less than the aftermath, as each man acquires "a mythic-heroic reputation" and each man's family is plagued by grief "that is not pure but mixed with fury. Murderous grief, that no amount of tears can placate." It feels, says Voorhees' daughter, like "an autoimmune disease." Both Voorhees and Dunphy emerge as stereotypes: idealistic Voorhees was radicalized in "the sour aftermath of the Vietnam War" when he was a pre-med student at the University of Michigan. Rejecting the chance to join his father's private practice, he champions women's reproductive rights, becoming a vocal activist even in the face of death threats to his family. Dunphy, a carpenter, roiled by lust and weak to temptation, is suddenly converted in his wife's evangelical church; Jesus, he comes to believe, impels him to avenge and prevent the killing of babies. "Free choice is a lie/Nobody's baby chooses to die," protestors chant at the Ohio clinic where Dunphy shoots Voorhees. Oates recounts Dunphy's arrest, trials (the first ends in mistrial), and sentencing; but her interest is engaged more by his beleaguered wife and bitter, sullen daughter, Dawn. Viciously bullied, Dawn is beaten and violated--Oates revels in mud and blood; Dawn's revenge is bloody, too, as is her later career as a boxer (a nod to Oates' On Boxing, 1987); but these pale next to a horrifying scene where anti-abortion zealots, including Dunphy's wife, rescue fetal remains from a dumpster in order to give them a Christian burial. In the last third of the book, new characters twist the plot in puzzling directions, leading to an unbelievable and anticlimactic end. Oates masterfully renders tension and despair but not the complexity of her subject.

    COPYRIGHT(2016) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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Joyce Carol Oates
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