Soul/Mate by Joyce Carol Oates Writing as Rosamond Smith


Colin Asch had in fact always relied upon the world’s stupidity as a factor in his own talent. Amid a herd of slow-witted bovine beasts he was a leopard capable of running at speeds up to seventy-five miles an hour- a flash of burnished flaming light.

Dorothea Deverell, a New England art historian, goes about her days as a widow, working in a Boston Museum. She has a lover, if not entirely hers to keep, and is content to simply live her life as is. Little does she know she is about to be charmed into a strange sort of affair with a charming, psychopath- the damaged yet brilliant young nephew of her friend. No one understands Colin Asch, and if he has to kill to rid the world of such people, so be it. That his disturbing darkness is hidden behind his beautiful face makes the horror brewing within him all the more chilling. Enraptured by Dorothea, his mania drives him to seduce her, by wiping out anyone who upsets her. He watches when she is unaware, and the reader is privy to the eerie euphoria that drives his urges. Colin Asch goes from sullen boyishness to successful, fashionable business success- using others to attain the life he imagines will please Dorothea. It is for Dorothea, he wants so badly to impress her.

There is a kinship, or has Dorothea misread her apprehension, confusing instinctual fear for tenderness and curiosity. The eyes, it’s a soul/mate knowing, at least from Colin’s warped perception. Dorothea’s kindness, beauty, success and intelligence are all the things that mesmerize the young man, the very person he struggles so hard now to be. This striving will lead to murders, and a unraveling of Colin’s mind. No one understands Colin as Dorothea does, the only person able to soothe this “Angel of Death”. The very attributes he admires are what puts Dorothea in danger- allows this serial killer an intimate window into her once simple life. Conversations between the two feed him like a drug, and Dorothea cannot deny his ‘characteristic effervescence’ and charm. And if his ‘rapid talk’ begins to seem strange, it is always ‘electric’ and ‘witty’. His stormy energy has an allure all it’s own, much like the beautiful poetry by “Shelley” that the young man reads.  “She knew” Colin knows that Dorothea too can sense the destiny, the very kindred ties of their souls. If she senses something is off, well then she is just being silly. Right?

Both charmed and repelled by Colin, Dorothea has no idea of he dark days lurking, all nurtured by the obsessive, distorted love Colin feels for her. Confused by his appearances, the strange comments he allows to slip, she feels something is wrong and yet doubts herself. There is an immediately intimacy, but too there is something in her gut not quite right. Surely, he couldn’t be falling for her, an older woman?  Her old inner voice, her companion of self-doubt that has always been present may well cloud her own warnings. But what of those slips? As when great violence befalls an adversary of Dorothea’s he seems to delight in the ‘justice’ that has befallen this ‘evil person’. Colin is waiting, waiting to share everything with her, all his deeds, his secrets buried in coded language, because Dorothea is the one. Dorothea alone understands him. He has found, among the ‘slow-witted bovine beasts’ an angel, a beloved, a soul/mate. It is only a matter of time before he unleashes his terror, and reveals his true self to his beloved.

What Joyce Carol Oates, writing as Rosamond Smith, has done is take a damaged sick young man and allowed the reader to feel his mania. More, she shows the cracks that make people uneasy and how we see what we want to see. His beautiful face is mistaken for goodness, as is often the case in most situations. Beauty, intelligence, and charm is the path of easy seduction. Wounded beauty is an intoxicating lure much more so than success. Dorothea spots the split between the depressive, insecure, angry man she first met to who he later suddenly becomes and yet shakes it out of her mind, surely she is mistaken? Colin knows how to work people, he knows how to evade others inquisitiveness when it’s not spotlighting that which he wishes to be seen.

Joyce Carol Oates has a particular style, voice that I’ve always enjoyed. She exposes the ugliness as much as the beauty in her characters. They can be brilliant and yet blind about so much. There is always a vulnerability with solid background, you almost feel sorry for Colin. He is a wounded beauty, an orphan, a loner, a roamer… and his episodes of mania swallow him, then he is a bloodthirsty, maniacal, manipulative and downright creepy. Be careful who you let in. The devil is all charm and beauty, at least this thriller Soul/Mate. Do we all really want such a kinship?

Available Now

Open Road Integrated Media


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