Joyce Carol Oates is one of the world's most respected living novelists. Her new novel brings us a tale of dark passions, prejudice, and the strange forms that love can take. A celebrated but reclusive author, young but in failing health, Joshua Seigl reluctantly realizes that he can no longer live alone. One day he encounters a young woman with synthetic-looking blond hair and pale, tattooed skin in a bookshop. She stirs something unidentifiable within him -- pity? desire? responsibility? He decides that Alma will be his assistant. An uneasy relationship begins, one which lurches between repulsion and attraction, between hate and love. Seigl is unaware that Alma has been shaped by abuse and misfortune. His kindness is baffling to her; his bookishness completely alien. She secretly harbours anti-Semitic thoughts; he quietly nurses his desire. With terrifying inevitability, their stories wind towards a shocking climax as both Alma and Seigl find themselves struggling to understand what their lives are worth.
With her unique, masterful balance of dark suspense and surprising tenderness, Joyce Carol Oates conveys how easily and treacherously prejudice can snake its way into human relationships.