Though subtle, American Appetites kept me mesmerized with its depiction of upper middle class life in a college town. An accidental death leads to a murder trial for a professor, Ian McCullough, accused of killing his wife, Glynnis. Though the characters are multidimensional, they are an unlikeable bunch overall. Ian is perhaps the only "likeable" character as I found myself feeling sympathetic towards him. His downfall is his lack of inner awareness. He is emotionally withdrawn, allowing events to dictate the course of his life. Secrets abound in this story, but Ian is oblivious in his detachment. It is only with the death of his wife that Ian is given the call to wake up as secrets explode around him concerning his colleagues, a female acquaintance, his college aged daughter and his wife. The ending is a surprise; it's a sad indictment of the children of these marriages as Ian's daughter explodes at him before turning away to pursue her own empty life. Joyce Carol Oates is a fine writer though some have accused her of being too wordy. At times that may be true, but Ms Oates more often than not never wastes a word in getting her story across. This is such a story and I highly recommend this book. It's said that it's not what you write about that's important but how you write a story. In a lesser writer, this novel consisting of self-important, out of touch college professors, would be boring indeed. In Ms. Oates' hands, she elevates it to art.