A teenager’s involvement with an older man is not what it appears in a tale of seduction by the New York Times bestselling author of We Were the Mulvaneys.
Sixteen-year-old Katya Spivak is out for a walk on the gracious streets of Bayhead Harbor with her two summer babysitting charges when she’s approached by silver-haired, elegant Marcus Kidder. At first his interest in her seems harmless, even pleasant; like his name, a sort of gentle joke. His beautiful home, the children’s books he’s written, his classical music, the marvelous art in his study, his lavish presents to her—Mr. Kidder’s life couldn’t be more different from Katya’s drab working-class existence back home in South Jersey, or more enticing. But by degrees, almost imperceptibly, something changes, and posing for Mr. Kidder’s new painting isn’t the lighthearted endeavor it once was.
What he wants from Katya is something she can’t comprehend. What Katya wants from him is something else again. As their relationship deepens, and twists, the question is who’s seducing whom? And to what end?
From a National Book Award winner and #1 New York Times bestselling author, A Fair Maiden is “fresh, current and gripping . . . the insight shrewd and the violence vivid . . . [an] intense and thought-provoking work of fiction”(New Statesman).
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.