These words stayed with me as I read The Sacrifice. This is a sharp and pointy book. It caught my attention. I was curious from the beginning as the first words sent shivers down my spine.
Seen my girl? My baby?
She came like a procession of voices though she was but a singular voice. She came along Camden Avenue in the Red Rock neighborhood of inner-city Pascayne, twelve tight compressed blocks between the New Jersey Turnpike and the Passaic River. In the sinister shadow of the high looming Pitcairn Memorial Bridge she came. Like an Old Testament mother she came seeking her lost child.
Who is the sacrifice in this story and what is being sacrificed? Is it Ednetta Frye the despairing mother seeking justice for her “young for her age, and trustin” daughter? Is it Sybilla Frye, the daughter, beaten and left to die in the derelict cellar of a disused building? Or Ignes Iglesias, the Hispanic (not black enough) woman cop sent to interview Sybilla at the hospital? Can it be Jerold Zahn, the young white police officer who is accused of raping Sybilla? Or Anis Schutt, the stepfather, who has a violent and dangerous past? What about the influential Mudrick brothers who stir up racial hatred after the attack? What are the consequences of their actions?
Joyce Carol Oates sets her narrative in the fictional town of Pascayne where skin colour, poverty, crime, and violence creates victims. This is a story full of powerful and convincing voices. The multiple perspectives establish empathy and sorrow for the characters and challenge perceptions along the way. Racial tension exudes from every page creating an edgy and evocative read.
Even though The Sacrifice is a work of fiction it is based on fact. I chose not to read about the actual case leaving this sharp point for later. I’m glad I did. The story became a national sensation and divided a country. This book will divide readers.