Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates

We Were the Mulvaneys (1996)

by Joyce Carol Oates

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,657711,019 (3.58)138
  1. 10
    A Good House by Bonnie Burnard (Nickelini)
    Nickelini: Both books are set in small towns and cover the story of one family over many years. Oates's book is darker and more satirical; the characters in Burnard's book are more likeable and believable.
  2. 00
    My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: These literary coming-of-age novels each hauntingly explore the repercussions of a rape on small communities. A large family falls apart in We Were the Mulvaneys, while My Sunshine Away portrays the residents of a single street.
  3. 00
    Atonement by Ian McEwan (ainsleytewce)
  4. 11
    A Map of the World by Jane Hamilton (krizia_lazaro)
  5. 00
    Middle Age: A Romance by Joyce Carol Oates (Booksloth)

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 138 mentions

English (68)  French (2)  Swedish (1)  All languages (71)
Showing 1-5 of 68 (next | show all)
Family torn apart by tragedy. Death of a father brings opportunity for the family to come together and heal old wounds. Can provide an interesting discussion on revenge, strength and weakness of families for book clubs. Easy to see why this became an Oprah pick.
( )
  yvonne.sevignykaiser | Apr 2, 2016 |
SAD. SAD. SAD. I think I bawled my entire way through this book. But it was well-written. But SAD. I may need anti-depressants after this one...

(I've been told by a friend that all of the books by this author are depressing, but I don't plan on reading another one, or I may end up jumping off a bridge.) ( )
  cobygirl517 | Mar 14, 2016 |
on Tuesday, June 08, 2004 I wrote about this book:

I have finished reading this book. It was a hard read though, not only because of the story but also cause the style of writing I guess?
At one time I thought shall I continue, but the story was so intriguing, i wanted to know what happened. I am glad i did. loved the storyline. I have cried my eyes out 2 nights in a row.

( )
  Marlene-NL | Mar 12, 2016 |
Michael and Corinne Mulvaney are the parents of four children: Michael, Patrick, Marianne, and Judd. Living in a picture perfect farm in upstate New York, the Mulvaneys own a successful roofing company; Michael Mulvaney is considered a serious businessman. Corinne is a bubbly, earthy mother whose life revolves around the family unit. For nearly twenty years the Mulvaney clan thrives, admired throughout Mt. Ephraim for being the model family.

On St. Valentine's night, 1976, Marianne Mulvaney, after prom, goes to a party where she becomes intoxicated and is raped by an upperclassman whose father is a well respected businessman and friend of Mr. Mulvaney.

Marianne's rape is the beginning of a tumultuous fifteen-year period. Her father, lost and angry, does not understand why his daughter will not press charges against her attacker. He can no longer look at his daughter the same way, and sends her to live with a distant relative of Corinne's in Salamanca, NY. Marianne, moving haphazardly from place to place, continues to wait for her father to call on her—but he never does.

For the other family members, things continue to get worse. All three of the Mulvaney boys leave home angrily, never to return. One even attempts to murder his sister's rapist. Michael Mulvaney's casual drinking turns into full-fledged alcoholism. Gradually, his reputation as a respected businessman disintegrates. The Mulvaneys are forced into bankruptcy and forced to sell the farm.

Eventually, Corinne and Michael split up. After many years, the Mulvaneys meet once again in a family reunion at Corinne's new home which she shares with a friend. The family has extended to include spouses and children. Finally, the Mulvaneys come full circle and receive closure.

  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
We were the Mulvaneys is about a family living in the Chatauqua Valley of New York state and the events that led to the unravelling of that family. The story opens with a first person narrator, Judd, the youngest son of the family, telling the story of how his family used to be a very prominent family in the area near Mt. Ephraim, New York, before an incident in 1976 would lead to a chain of events that would slowly tear the family apart.

While I mentioned that Judd was the narrator, that isn't quite right. Sometimes the narrator is Judd, and sometimes it seems to be a third person omniscient narrator. Is that just Judd filling in what he surmises happened? That isn't quite clear. There are about 50-75 pages where Judd isn't mentioned as the narrator at all. Then, all of a sudden, he begins talking at the beginning of a chapter. It felt like Oates forgot that Judd was supposed to be narrating and then suddenly remembered him. However, the alternating between Judd and an omniscient narrator worked much better in the fourth quarter of the book, which leaves me wondering if it was intentional. Maybe it was unintentional at first, and then she decided to just go with it. Either way, it is jolting when Judd reappears in the middle of the book after having been gone for so long.

Another jolting issue with the book is the presence of anachronisms. For one, the family has a cat named E.T. in 1976. The film E.T. wouldn't come out for another six years. Also, there are teenagers in 1976 named Austen and Zachary. Both of these names were very popular baby names in the 1990s when the book was written, but they would not have been names commonly used around 1960 when these characters would have been born. Anachronistic names can jolt a reader out of the time and place of a story's narrative and make the book less effective. This is another thing that got better towards the end of the book, where I didn't notice anymore anachronisms.

One thing that really struck me about this book was the level of detail that Joyce writes with. That is something that can get on my nerves if a writer slathers layers of detail onto a story with no sense of purpose, which I thought Joyce was doing early in the book. However, as I continued to read, I realized that she was painting a picture that enabled me to get inside of the heads of her characters because I now knew every angle of their lives and the impact everything had on them. This level of detail had become a strength by the end of the book, and I realized that it was necessary and intentional to tell the story.

By the end, I thought this was a very good but very inconsistently frustrating book that was plagued by a muddled middle despite a good start and a very good finish. I was left wondering if Oates felt pressured to publish quickly and didn't have time to clean the middle up as much as she could have. The ending, however, was great, and would have been even better without the epilogue that, while good, wasn't really a necessary addition to the story. The story ended well without it. ( )
1 vote fuzzy_patters | Feb 15, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 68 (next | show all)
In her gracefully sprawling new novel, Joyce Carol Oates delivers a modern family tragedy with a theme as painfully primal as “Oedipus Rex.”
added by prosperosbook | editSalon, David Futrelle (Sep 27, 1996)
What keeps us coming back to Oates Country is something stronger and spookier: her uncanny gift of making the page a window, with something happening on the other side that we'd swear was life itself.
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.

You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fibre your blood.

Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged.
Missing me one place search another,
I stop some where waiting for you.

from Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
for my "Mulvaneys" . . .
First words
We were the Mulvaneys, remember us?
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Information from the French Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0452277205, Paperback)

A happy family, the Mulvaneys. After decades of marriage, Mom and Dad are still in love--and the proud parents of a brood of youngsters that includes a star athlete, a class valedictorian, and a popular cheerleader. Home is an idyllic place called High Point Farm. And the bonds of attachment within this all-American clan do seem both deep and unconditional: "Mom paused again, drawing in her breath sharply, her eyes suffused with a special lustre, gazing upon her family one by one, with what crazy unbounded love she gazed upon us, and at such a moment my heart would contract as if this woman who was my mother had slipped her fingers inside my rib cage to contain it, as you might hold a wild, thrashing bird to comfort it."

But as we all know, Eden can't last forever. And in the hands of Joyce Carol Oates, who's chronicled just about every variety of familial dysfunction, you know the fall from grace is going to be a doozy. By the time all is said and done, a rape occurs, a daughter is exiled, much alcohol is consumed, and the farm is lost. Even to recount these events in retrospect is a trial for the Mulvaney offspring, one of whom declares: "When I say this is a hard reckoning I mean it's been like squeezing thick drops of blood from my veins." In the hands of a lesser writer, this could be the stuff of a bad television movie. But this is Oates's 26th novel, and by now she knows her material and her craft to perfection. We Were the Mulvaneys is populated with such richly observed and complex characters that we can't help but care about them, even as we wait for disaster to strike them down. --Anita Urquhart

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:03 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

A family of six disintegrates after a daughter is raped by a high-school student in upstate New York. The disgrace -- there is some question if it was rape -- sends the father to drink and financial ruin, the girl leaves home, the others follow. By the author of What I Lived For.… (more)

» see all 6 descriptions

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
1118 avail.
65 wanted
6 pay6 pay

Popular covers


Average: (3.58)
0.5 4
1 31
1.5 9
2 85
2.5 20
3 294
3.5 57
4 358
4.5 31
5 186


2 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

See editions

Recorded Books

An edition of this book was published by Recorded Books.

» Publisher information page


An edition of this book was published by HighBridge.

» Publisher information page

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


Help/FAQs | About | Privacy/Terms | Blog | Store | Contact | LibraryThing.com | APIs | WikiThing | Common Knowledge | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | 106,723,293 books! | Top bar: Always visible