Meet the Mayfields from Carthage

Cover of CarthageCarthage by Joyce Carol Oates is about the Mayfield family, who on the face of it are a small town family going about their daily lives pleased with what they have achieved.

Zeno Mayfield, the confident father, is an ex-mayor and now town lawyer who is doted on by his wife and daughters. Arlette Mayfield, the protective mother, is adapting to her daughters growing away from home. Juliet Mayfield, the eldest daughter, is the “good sister” whom everyone in town likes. Cressida Mayfield, the youngest daughter, is the “smart sister” who makes others feel uncomfortable. And lastly, earnest Brett Kincaid, Juliet’s fiancée, who is a disabled war veteran recently returned from the Iraqi War. They are a strong band of characters and create a dark and powerful story.

The story begins with Cressida who goes missing in the local mountains after last being seen in the company of a traumatised Brett. What happens to her and Brett? What are the effects of her disappearance on the family? Who and what do they all become? This poignant story is told from the perspective of each character, and whilst this style can seem at times seem disjointing, it does create further tension.

Carthage is not an easy read. How does a traumatised ex-soldier fit back into daily life in a small conformist town? How does this family cope with inner and outer conflict? What are the effects of violence and trauma on their lives? The good sister vs the smart sister, what are the long term effects of their sibling rivalry? The plot takes the reader on many twists and turns and by the end the characters have all been radically transformed. Is their transformation for the better or worse? Take time to read Carthage to find out.

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