In this riveting novel, Joyce Carol Oates explores the high price of success in the life of one woman—the first female president of a lauded Ivy League university—and her grip upon her self-identity in the face of personal and professional demons. Mudgirl was a child abandoned by her mother in the silty flats of the Black Snake River, who survived by an accident of fate, or destiny. Meredith "M.R." Neukirchen is a successful and powerful woman whose commitment to her career and moral fervor for her role are all-consuming. Their collision is at the center of this psychic ghost story—the chilling portrait of a woman cracking the glass ceiling at enormous personal cost.
"Joyce Carol Oates's latest novel is about many things, but first and foremost it is about the complications of being a high-achieving woman in the 21st century.... Oates tells [her protagonist's story] with a detail and relish that's both heartbreaking and fascinating."—Ms.
"There is no mistaking a Joyce Carol Oates story for anyone else's.... Not just their virtuosity but also their aura of menace makes them hers.... We think of Oates, like Poe, as a master of terror, but her real mastery is in almost never depicting a strong emotion in isolation.... [Oates is] a fearless experimenter forcing the reader ahead of her at knifepoint."—LATimes
"Extraordinarily intense, racking, and resonant.... Masterfully enmeshing nightmare with reality, Oates has created a resolute, incisive, and galvanizing drama about our deep connection to place, the persistence of the past, and the battles of a resilient soul under siege.... A major, controversy-ready novel from high-profile, protean Oates."—Booklist (starred review)