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We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates

We Were the Mulvaneys (1996)

by Joyce Carol Oates

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,331811,352 (3.6)168
A family of six disintegrates after a daughter is raped by a high-school student. It happens to the wealthy Mulvaneys 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)
  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)

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» See also 168 mentions

English (78)  French (2)  Swedish (1)  All languages (81)
Showing 1-5 of 78 (next | show all)
I was glad to read this book for my book club as I had heard of the author but had not read any of her books. Based on this one I am unlikely to read any other.
My issues with the book are:
1) it was so difficult to get into as the author lumbered on & on & on before getting into the family’s relationships and life changing event.
2) While some of the characters were appealing at first, as the story progressed, I found that I did not like any of them.
3) The happy ending was not believable, although welcome after 300+ pages of neglect, abuse and abandonment.

I would not recommend this book. ( )
  AstridG | Apr 24, 2020 |
I really should have waited a year or two before reading another one of Oates books, they always leave me feeling like the world is wretched and doomed to despair. It was good, grew on me, pulled me in to its details more than I expected. After hundreds of pages of catastrophe, alienation and spiraling failure, the cheerful ending seems a little out of place and suspect. Like some of her other books, the character development is good, yet they are intensely remote and aloof from the reader. ( )
  reg_lt | Feb 7, 2020 |
I found this at a church book sale. I figured I should read at least one Joyce Carol Oates book before I die, so this one got the nod. Apparently, I didn't choose as wisely as I might have, but then I didn't really have the opportunity. It's what the church book table had the day I got the idea.

This book was a bit difficult at first because of the writing style. Oates meanders here and there, not content with a single simile or metaphor for each point, rather preferring the bundle them up, a cacophony of imagery, so to speak. So it takes quite some time actually to get anywhere in the story. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but the problem for me was the stark contrast from the book I'd read previously, What Happened to the Corbetts by Nevil Shute. Shute has a very straightforward and spare style. So, as I said, it took me a while to get into Oates' more expansive style, hinting at things, flitting around things, before eventually, one hopes, things become vaguely clearer, and over time perhaps, clearer still. Once I'd gone through a hundred pages or so, I got used to Oates' style and could better enjoy the story, such as it was.

Basically, this is a story of a family—father, mother, three sons and a daughter—that seemed prosperous and happy. But then the daughter, a popular cheer leader, was raped after a prom, and the whole family fell apart, slowly, agonizingly. Most of this book deals with the slow, agonizing degeneration. It sounds awful, but it does make for interesting reading, perhaps because it seems like a tale that could happen to almost any family. Then too, once one gets used to Oates' style, one realizes that the story is very beautifully written. ( )
  lgpiper | Jun 21, 2019 |
Why I Stopped Reading on p. 14: Yes, I would normally give a book more time to hook me (I try to give 10% or 50 pages, depending on the length), but there's no reason to do so this time. I can't abide the profusion of italics and exclamation points and pointless run-on sentences. I can't abide the cutesy voice of Judd, the 30-year-old baby of the family, gushing descriptions of his family without giving me any clue as to his own personality (except that he's a gusher). And I can already tell Judd is going to mess with me, withhold things, bait me and then not tell me The Big Secret. For 450 pages? No. Can't do it.

Oh, and this:

Everything recorded here happened and it's my task to suggest how, and why; why what might seem to be implausible or inexplicable at a distance--a beloved child's banishment by a loving father, like something in a Grimm fairy tale--isn't implausible or inexplicable from within. I will include as many "facts" as I can assemble; and the rest is conjecture, imagined but not invented. Much is based upon memory and conversations with family members about things I had not experienced firsthand nor could possibly know except in the way of the heart.

So the author here is warning me that 1.) The story is implausible, but the narrator will try to make me believe I missed something if I conclude that the story is implausible; 2.) The narrator will be unreliable in other ways as well; 3.) The author fully intends to break point-of-view rules.

I'm okay with a well-done unreliable narrator, but one that's badly done (purely to manipulate the reader) is one of my literary pet peeves, so ... Overall, plenty of reasons for an enthusiastic pass on this one.
  AmandaGStevens | Mar 2, 2019 |
I'm a sucker for a good old family saga, and I'm glad to say that JCO didn't disappoint with this one.

Set in the 1970s, the Mulvaneys are the epitome of the perfect all American family. Michael Snr. runs a successful roofing company and is a stalwart of the business associations and circles of Mt. Emphraim, a small country town. His wife Corinne, a farmer's daughter, runs a hobby antique business from their picture postcard farmhouse, but is at her happiest when gathered around a noisy dinner table with their four children as they laugh and tease each other. The four children are all achievers in their own right and popular at school.

JCO takes her time allowing us to settle in with this rambunctious, close family, before an event happens which shatters the Mulvaney family harmony. I won't spoil it for anyone who might read it in the future, but it's one of those sad unravellings that as a reader you can see doesn't have to be that way.

I enjoyed this novel, as I think it portrayed well the potential frailty of even the strongest of family relationships, and how they can be turned on their head in a way that could never have been foreseen.

I doubt it will be my book of the year, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

4 stars - an enjoyable, page-turning read. ( )
  AlisonY | Jan 11, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 78 (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.
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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" . . .
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We were the Mulvaneys, remember us?
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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ISBN 0393064778 belongs to The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family by Annette Gordon-Reed
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