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Give Me Your Heart: Tales of Mystery and Suspense

Give Me Your Heart


Author: Joyce Carol Oates
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Year: 2011
Length: 272 pages

Other Editions



Publisher's Blurb

The need for love—obsessive, self-destructive, unpredictable—takes us to forbidden places, as in the chilling world of Give Me Your Heart, a new collection of stories by the inimitable Joyce Carol Oates.

In the suspenseful "Strip Poker," a reckless adolescent girl must find a way of turning the tables on a gathering of increasingly threatening young men—Can she "outplay" them? In the award-winning "Smother!" a young woman's nightmare memory of childhood brings trouble on her professor-mother—Which of them will "win"? In "Split/Brain" a woman who has blundered into a lethal situation confronts the possibility of saving herself—Will she take it? In "The First Husband," a jealous man discovers that his wife seems to have lied about her first marriage, and exacts a cruel revenge, years after the fact. In these and other powerful tales, children veer beyond their parents' control, wives and husbands wake up to find that they hardly know each other, haunted pasts intrude upon uncertain futures, and those who bring us the most harm may be the nearest at hand.

In ten razor-sharp stories, National Book Award winner Joyce Carol Oates shows that the most deadly mysteries often begin at home.


  • Give me your heart
  • Split/Brain
  • The First Husband
  • Strip Poker
  • Smother

  • Tetanus
  • The Spill
  • Nowhere
  • Bleeed
  • Vena Cava


From "Give Me Your Heart"

Dear Dr. K——,

 It’s been a long time, hasn’t it! Twenty-three years, nine months, and eleven days.

 Since we last saw each other. Since you last saw, “nude” on your naked knees, me.


  • National Magazine Awards, 2006 winner: "Smother"
  • Pushcart Prize, XXXII: "Nowhere"

 Dr. K——! The formal salutation isn’t meant as flattery, still less as mockery—please understand. I am not writing after so many years to beg an unreasonable favor of you (I hope), or to make demands, merely to inquire if, in your judgment, I should go through the formality, and the trouble, of applying to be the lucky recipient of your most precious organ, your heart. If I may expect to collect what is due to me, after so many years.

 I’ve learned that you, the renowned Dr. K——, are one who has generously signed a “living will” donating his organs to those in need. Not for Dr. K—— an old-fashioned, selfish funeral and burial in a cemetery, nor even cremation. Good for you, Dr. K——! But I want only your heart, not your kidneys, liver, or eyes. These I will waive, that others more needy will benefit.

 Of course, I mean to make my application as others do, in medical situations similar to my own. I would not expect favoritism. The actual application would be made through my cardiologist. Caucasian female of youthful middle age, attractive, intelligent, optimistic though with a malfunctioning heart, otherwise in perfect health. No acknowledgment would be made of our old relationship, on my part at least. Though you, dear Dr. K——, as the potential heart donor, could indicate your own preference, surely?

 All this would transpire when you die, Dr. K——, I mean. Of course! Not a moment before.

 (I guess you might not be aware that you’re destined to die soon? Within the year? In a “tragic,” “freak” accident, as it will be called? In an “ironic,” “unspeakably ugly” end to a “brilliant career”? I’m sorry that I can’t be more specific about time, place, means; even whether you’ll die alone, or with a family member or two. But that’s the nature of accident, Dr. K——. It’s a -surprise.)


  • Publishers Weekly, October 11, 2010, p. 24
  • Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 2010, p. 1034
  • Carolann Lee Curry, Library Journal, October 15, 2010, p. 71
  • Judith Chettle, Richmond Times Dispatch, January 16, 2011, Features, p. 1
  • Andrea Thompson, New York Times Book Review, January 23, 2011, p. 16
  • Katie Law, The Evening Standard (London), January 27, 2011
  • Kristin Ewins, Times Literary Supplement, January 28, 2011, p. 21
  • Adeline Chia, The Straits Times (Singapore), March 6, 2011
  • Owen Richardson, Sunday Age (Melbourne, Australia), March 13, 2011, p. M20
  • Gina McIntyre, Los Angeles Times, March 14, 2011, p. D2