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The Gravedigger's Daughter by Joyce Carol Oates
The Gravedigger's Daughter follows the life of Rebecca Schwart, born on a boat in New York Harbor as her Jewish family fled Nazi Germany. Her father had been a popular schoolteacher back in Munich, but the only work he can find in upstate New York is being a gravedigger and cemetery caretaker. Undone by their inability to assimilate and haunted by their past, Rebecca's parents drive her away, assured that the new country will not harm her since she was born here. Rebecca strikes out on her own, reinventing herself several times as she finds it necessary. She marries an abusive man, bears a son who becomes a musical prodigy, and dodges the pitfalls that American life throws in her path. Joyce Carol Oates' novel has received mostly positive reviews with the Portland Oregonian saying, "Although the story rings with truth, there is magic to the prose that makes the piece unfold like a dark fairy tale, suspended just above the realm of reality. This may well be Oates' masterpiece. It's obviously a book very close to her heart."