I have to admit, when I heard about Joyce Carol Oates’s book, The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares: Novellas and Stories of Unspeakable Dread, I couldn’t wait to jump in. I’m a sucker for stories that tingle the back of your spine, and with her reputation preceding her, I figured Miss Oates would deliver, and then some.
However, I was somewhat disappointed with The Corn Maiden. The seven stories that are featured in this collection are anything but “unspeakable dread”. I wouldn’t even classify them as nightmares. A few are unnerving, but it’s nothing I haven’t seen in Law and Order: SVU.
Arranged in no particular order, the stories in The Corn Maiden are told from different perspectives and each contain different characters of different ages in different times in their life.
“The Corn Maiden” is perhaps the best of the stories in this collection. It’s a nail-biting tale of a little girl who is kidnapped by her peer and raised to become a human sacrifice. Perhaps the scariest of the stories in this collection is the last one, “A Hole in the Head”. A short tale about a botched medical procedure, “A Hole in the Head” is gruesome and uncomfortable to read…and it will defiantly make you think twice about cosmetic surgery.
If you’re looking for blood and guts, monsters and vampires, look elsewhere. The stories in The Corn Maiden are psychological in nature, toying with human suffering and the nightmares of the disturbed mind. From human sacrifices to Botox gone wrong, these short stories are only scary in that they could happen in real life…and may have already.
However, despite the fact that I was disappointed that my expectations of the book weren’t true, I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy reading the stories in The Corn Maiden. They all captured my interest and I easily read the entire book in 2-3 days. Each story did have me anxious to reach the end…to find out the outcome for these unfortunate and disturbed people, but often I felt the ending of the stories a bit of a let down.
Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.