In 1936 the Schwarts, an immigrant family desperate to escape Nazi Germany, settle in a small town in upstate New York, where the father, a former high school teacher, is demeaned by the only job he can get: gravedigger and cemetery caretaker. After local prejudice and the family`s own emotional frailty result in unspeakable tragedy, the gravedigger`s daughter, Rebecca, begins her astonishing pilgrimage into America, an odyssey of erotic risk and imaginative daring, ingenious self-invention, and, in the end, a bittersweet-but very 'American'-triumph. 'You are born here, they will not hurt you'-so the gravedigger has predicted for his daughter, which will turn out to be true.
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In The Gravedigger`s Daughter, Oates has created a masterpiece of domestic yet mythic realism, at once emotionally engaging and intellectually provocative: an intimately observed testimony to the resilience of the individual to set beside such predecessors as The Falls, Blonde, and We Were the Mulvaneys.