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A Book of American Martyrs

Cover of A Book of American Martyrs

A Book of American Martyrs

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Gus Voorhees is a pioneer in the advancement of women's reproductive rights and a controversial abortion provider in the American Midwest. One morning as he arrives at his clinic, he is ambushed by a hardline Christian, Luther Dunphy, and shot dead. The killing leaves in its wake two fatherless families: the Voorheeses, who are affluent, highly educated, secular and pro-choice, and the Dunphys, their opposite on all counts. When the daughters of the two families, Naomi Voorhees and Dawn Dunphy, glimpse each other at the trial of Luther Dunphy, their initial response is mutual hatred. But their lives are tangled together forever by what has happened, and throughout the years to come and the events that follow, neither can quite forget the other.
Gus Voorhees is a pioneer in the advancement of women's reproductive rights and a controversial abortion provider in the American Midwest. One morning as he arrives at his clinic, he is ambushed by a hardline Christian, Luther Dunphy, and shot dead. The killing leaves in its wake two fatherless families: the Voorheeses, who are affluent, highly educated, secular and pro-choice, and the Dunphys, their opposite on all counts. When the daughters of the two families, Naomi Voorhees and Dawn Dunphy, glimpse each other at the trial of Luther Dunphy, their initial response is mutual hatred. But their lives are tangled together forever by what has happened, and throughout the years to come and the events that follow, neither can quite forget the other.
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  • AudioFile Magazine Oates's novel gives listeners a well-timed and insightful look at the mental state of a zealous evangelical who kills a doctor who performs abortions. In this moving attempt to tell the story in an all-encompassing and objective way, narrators Neil Hellegers, Tavia Gilbert, and Kirsten Potter portray intertwined families as they cope with the assassination. A remorseful tone permeates the ensemble narration, especially in the portrayals of both main characters, whose fervent belief in their missions is frightening. Empathetically depicted as heartfelt warriors, they personify one of our nation's most polarizing issues. R.O. � AudioFile 2017, Portland, Maine
  • Publisher's Weekly

    December 12, 2016
    On Nov. 2, 1999 in Muskegee Falls, Ohio, a self-described “soldier of God” named Luther Dunphy loads a shotgun, drives to an abortion clinic near his home, and guns down Dr. Augustus Voorhees as he arrives at work. In this chilling novel, bestselling author Oates (Carthage) approaches one of America’s enduringly divisive topics through the lens of a sprawling family epic. The bulk of the novel deals with the shooting’s aftermath and its impact on the daughters of Dunphy and Voorhees—two women whose lives are permanently shifted by their fathers’ legacy for opposite sides of the contentious abortion-rights debate. Divided into five sections, the book begins by delving into the lives of Dunphy (now on death row) and Voorhees before the narrative finally coalesces around Naomi Voorhees’s floundering attempts to understand her family, leading her to a career in documentary filmmaking and a surprising connection with Dawn “The Hammer of Jesus” Dunphy, whose anger and aggression propel her into a championship-level boxing career. Unfortunately, some of the emotional nuance is thinly developed, with the majority of the characters standing as archetypes of opposing worldviews. Nevertheless, Oates’s sprawling tale presents a sensitively painted portrait of the inextricable quality of grief and the weight of family legacy, showing how unexpected connections can bind people together in counterintuitive ways.

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A Book of American Martyrs
A Book of American Martyrs
Joyce Carol Oates
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