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Celebrated author Joshua Seigl, an idiosyncratic bachelor and confirmed recluse young but in failing health reluctantly admits to himself that he must hire a live-in assistant to help him with his increasingly complicated professional and personal affairs. Then one day at the bookstore he encounters Alma, a young woman covered with bizarre tattoos, who stirs something inside him. Unaware of her torturous past the abuses she's suffered, the wrongs she's committed, the virulent hatred that seethes within her Seigl decides that she is the one, and he has no idea that he is bringing an enemy into his home.
With her unique, masterful balance of dark suspense and surprising tenderness, Joyce Carol Oates probes the tragedy of ethnic hatred and challenges the accepted limits of desire.