“Middle Age: A Romance” by Joyce Carol Oates

Adam Berendt dies and leaves women who loved him bereft.

These women are wealthy, some of them are married, and they are used to a sophisticated lifestyle. Only rich people live in Salthill-on-Hudson, a New York City suburb. But when Adam Berendt dies, it is as if a veil falls down from their perfect lives.

Some of the women who were in love with Adam Berendt are unhappy in marriage, while others are divorced, and they feel lonely – even surrounded by luxury and wearing designer clothes. None of these women knows who Adam Berendt really was, but all of them believe that their love for him is the purest, the sincerest they’ve felt in their lives.

“Middle Age: A Romance” by Joyce Carol Oates is an unusual story. None of its characters ignites sympathy; you don’t feel sorry for them going through their misfortunes. At the same time, it’s so exciting to follow their paths together with them.

What I found the most fascinating about the story of Adam Berendt – who isn’t Adam Berendt but a completely different person – is the life he chose to lead after the tragic events of his youth. It is more common to see book characters broken by the tragedies they had to go through. Such characters usually blame everyone and everything for what has happened to them and drive themselves into the abyss. The path Adam has chosen is as far from self-destruction as can be imagined.

Adam wasn’t handsome, he had one blind eye. Besides, he was over 50, and his age was obvious. Why did high society women worship him? Was it an aura of mystery around him? Or his rare talent of a good listener?

Adam’s death made women who loved him inconsolable. They are ready to do reckless things to honour the memory of him. But only one of them manages to unfold the secret of his life.

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