I just finished this complex novel over the course of the last month. It had twists and turns and the author, Joyce Carol Oates, developed very flawed and complex characters: Mr. Mayfield, his wife Arlette, the beautiful sister, Juliet; and the smart sister named Cressida who caused most of the agony in the story. Cressida, who was the main protagonist had a curious introverted persona; there is the accused soldier, Brett Kincaid with PTSD; his Mother, Ethel who had been failed by the men closest to her. There is Cressida's Mr. Investigator to her Intern in exile. The story begins in the upstate New York town of Carthage with complicated familial relationships, a missing young girl and a despondent father on the search for her in a large nature preserve. Part Two is titled "Exile", which is written in a kind of code; Part Three is "the return", which culminates in the novel's ending, which not surprisingly, is abrupt and inconclusive. Loose ends are not tied up neatly here. But in the end, the long journey along with these characters feels satisfying.
To me the novel is about personality, how the traits of your character define you and lead the direction of your life, whether good or bad. In this novel, the direction is mostly bad. A very well written and layered story. I'd recommend it to anyone wanting to delve into a long, thought-provoking read.