If you are worried that any of these stories are going to scare the pants off of you, never fear, I give them 3 scares out of 5. Seriously though, there is some creepiness here and there, but nothing that is going to make you have nightmares for days, looking at you "It".
I got this collection back when I was still scouting around for Scary (Women) Authors and Diverse Authors Can be Spooky Fun books.
There are only 6 stories in this collection and though some were dancing towards scary/horror most were just more in the mystery or thriller genre to me.
"The Doll-Master" (4 stars)- I liked the set-up to this book. A young boy who mourns his cousin that has passed away. He keeps a doll of hers to remember her by, but it is taken away from him by his jerk of a father. The boy grows up to become obsessed with stealing away found dolls that he finds laying around on the ground, playground, etc. Of course when you start reading you realize what is really going on. I liked this one the most of the six stories though I thought the ending was a real letdown. I think you can guess at what is going to occur, but in all of her stories, Oates endings just kind of peter out. I don't know if that's her way of showing tension/terror, but it got old real quick by the end of the collection.
"Soldier" (5 stars)- I don't think I was in the proper mindset for this story. This hit a little too close to home for me with regards to me thinking about the Trayvon Martin shooting and how a lot of people applauded GZ (I am not spelling out his name) for the actions he took and how we all got a well gee he's a really racist and appalling human being after the fact. In "Soldier" we have a young man being applauded for shooting a young black boy (in his recitation to the police and others he thought he was a man) when the boy and his five other friends tried to attack him. Oates manages to really get under the skin of what a lot of people are saying and not saying regarding violence against African Americans in the U.S. right now. And she slowly peels back the shooter's state of mind until you get to see every little ugly thought the person had concerning black people. This story actually made me tear up a bit. The ending leaves so much unsaid so who knows how things will go. Will this man be lauded a hero or be found guilty in the court of law.
"Gun Accident: An Investigation" (2 stars)-This one was just odd. We have an older woman recollecting her childhood teacher and how she was asked to take care of her Siamese cat, plants, mail, etc. while she was away attending to her husband. I honestly thought the story was heading one way, and then Oates throws in the girl's older black sheep cousin and the story shifts. I don't know exactly what Oates was going with here, maybe look deeper at stories that a person is telling you. Maybe she was also trying to get into how back in the day (and still today I would argue) people don't talk much about the things a man/boy can do to a young woman and how that can leave them. Like I said, this story was odd and I felt like was trying to do too much.
"Equatorial" (1 star)-Sorry the wife in this story (we finally find out her name is Audrey) was not that smart. She obviously realizes slowly but surely something is wrong with the vacation she and her husband (who has been married twice before her) is on. I wanted to ask girl do you even Hitchcock or what?
The flow in this one was not as great as the first two either. The story just builds and builds and we all get talks about goats, turtles, etc. on the Galapagos Island (yes I am serious) which I am sure symbolically were supposed to represent the wife, but guess what i am not in English Lit senior class anymore and I don't feel like trying to interpret people, words, or things. The ending still left things somewhat in the air. But since I am a Stephen King woman I went the dark route and just said ah well so that's how that ended and went about my day.
"Big Momma" (1 star)-apparently this and the previous story were stories of naive women/young girls. I am too tired to even get into this, but a girl befriends someone whose family would make Leatherface's family cringe from. There is obviously something not right there. So yeah the ending was a foregone conclusion and I just kind of went, okay moving on.
"Mystery, Inc." (3 stars)- Look, I love bookstores too, enough to kill for one though.....okay no. I am going to go with no.
But reading the unraveling of one man named Charles Brockden who is going to do whatever is necessary to acquire this bookstore. The guy ends up I guess blundering on (or not) and at least in this story, we can 100 percent guess at the ending.