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The Rise of Life on Earth


"Like most important writers―Joyce, Proust, Mann―she has an absolute identification with her material: the spirit of a society at a crucial point in its history."―Walter Clemens, Newsweek

Selected by The New York Times Book Review as one of the most notable books of 1991, Joyce Carol Oates's The Rise of Life on Earth is a memorable portrait of one of the "insulted and injured" of American society.

Set in the underside of working-class Detroit of the '60s and '70s, this short, lyric novel sketches Kathleen Hennessy's violent childhood―shattered by a broken home, child-beating, and murder―and follows her into her early adult years as a hospital health-care worker. Overworked, underpaid, and quietly overzealous, Kathleen falls in love with a young doctor, whose exploitation of her sets the course of the remainder of her life, in which her passivity masks a deep fury and secret resolve to take revenge.

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