Young and innocent, 15-year-old Katya Spivak strikes up a friendship with the silver haired, elegant, and much older Marcus Kidder. His life couldn't be more different from her own drab, working class existence - or more enticing. His beautiful home, classical music and lavish gifts all serve to hide something far more sinister . . .
By degrees, almost imperceptibly, something changes, and posing for Mr Kidder's new painting isn't the light-hearted endeavour it once was. What does he really want from her? And how far will he go to get it?
Sixteen-year-old Katya Spivak and elderly Marcus Kidder share a bizarre romance in Oates's derivative and unpolished new novel. In bland Bayhead Harbor, N.J., Katya serves as a nanny to the Engelhardts' two young children. Attractive Katya unappreciated by her alcoholic mother, mistreated by the tyrannical Engelhardts is intrigued by the attentions of wealthy Mr. Kidder, a former children's book author and amateur painter. The courting is slow at first, but after Katya accepts Mr. Kidder's money to help her mother pay off a debt, things accelerate. Soon Katya is posing for Mr. Kidder in lingerie and receiving payment upon each visit. She begins to feel used, but is thankful for the attention until one evening when Mr. Kidder possibly drugs her, at which point something equally bizarre and predictable happens. Katya and Mr. Kidder's final meeting reveals Mr. Kidder's true intention for Katya, but the revelation isn't worth the buildup. This is certainly one of Oates's lesser works.