Joyce Carol Oates is known mainly for her shockingly blunt, horrifyingly realistic portrayals of young girls caught in the turbulence of adolescence. Her latest novel, published in 1997, "Man Crazy" is no exception. It tells the sad, strange story of Ingrid Boone, a child who grew up with a criminal, on-the-lam father and an emotionally absent mother, leading her to seek love from anyone who showed her the least bit of kindness.
The expository portion of "Man Crazy" begins with five-year-old Ingrid's tale of her and her young mother Chloe fleeing their home under the cover of night after Ingrid's father commits an unnamed crime and runs from the law. While her father evades capture, Ingrid and Chloe are sent adrift in the world to fend for themselves in a shabby apartment in a new town. Complications arise as Ingrid struggles with growing up without a father figure, instead dealing with the endless parade of men her mother brings home over the years.
As a teenager, Ingrid adopts this behavior herself, so desperate for love that she will latch onto any man, no matter how old, who pays her even a little attention. Ingrid's life begins to spin out of control when she becomes involved with the leader of a cult, and becomes his emissary of sorts, finally becoming so brainwashed that it takes the cult leader's death in a fire to bring her back to the world. Ingrid's sad tale is resolved when, after a long stay in a mental hospital, she reunites with her estranged mother and begins to put the pieces of her life back together.
Ingrid is the protagonist of the story, and also the most dynamic character. Being the person from whose point of view "Man Crazy" is told,