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We Were the Mulvaneys (1996)

by Joyce Carol Oates

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,527881,415 (3.6)171
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 171 mentions

English (83)  French (3)  Swedish (1)  All languages (87)
Showing 1-5 of 83 (next | show all)
LOL one reviewer asked who would want to hear, in great detail, about the guy that drove Marianne to a funeral? Me!!!!!

Many other reviewers complained that it takes over 100 pages to get to the big event that broke the Mulvaneys apart. Not me. I wouldn't care if it took 200 pages. I wanted more, more, more. JCO can't give me enough detail.

Having come from a small family, I love reading about large families who have a lot of fun times together. It's so awful how one horrible event can break a family like the Mulvaneys. I was hanging on every word, waiting to see how each one would get through it, or not. Sigh. ( )
  Jinjer | Jul 19, 2021 |
This is another favorite of mine. The characters are so real, and although flawed, genuinely good. The family relationships ring true. The plot is composed of a 1000 tiny moments that flow together seamlessly. Oats captures perfectly the tenor of daily life as an average family navigates life's highs and lows, making mistakes but also learning along the way. ( )
  LisaIrishWhalen | Mar 8, 2021 |
It's a very slow, sometimes almost tedious read, but it's so remarkably detailed in how it builds up the characters. I think it sags for a while after about the midpoint, and for all that the characters are portrayed complexly, their actions aren't always all that believable to me. The book deals very much in appearances, and the story is told through the voice of a narrator who was young for much of the story's crisis and is retelling it at a distance, having in fact not been present for most of the specific events whose reality rings a bit false for me, so maybe Oates is doing something here with the reliability of the narrator, and these things that are registering for me as lapses in reality are intentional. In any case, it's a nice piece of writing, basically exactly the sort of stuff that Franzen tries to write (in fact, I feel like Freedom maybe owes a little something to this book), but so much better in Oates's hands. ( )
  dllh | Jan 6, 2021 |
This was a five-star book, the best of her books I'd read, until I got to the epilogue. Then, unfortunately, the grim but realistic tone the author had established and hewed to throughout disappeared. The pollyanna ending also undid the believability of certain major characters. ( )
  copyedit52 | Nov 3, 2020 |
I have now read a few of Joyce Carol Oates' novels. [b:Them|41899|Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Hogwarts Library)|Newt Scamander|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1303738520l/41899._SX50_.jpg|4195128] comes immediately to mind. Initially this novel, including the writing style, seems so very different from [b:Them|41899|Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Hogwarts Library)|Newt Scamander|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1303738520l/41899._SX50_.jpg|4195128]. JCO makes extensive use of foreshadowing, and I find myself hoping for a different outcome than what has been indicated. The characters that JCO creates are rich in detail and depth, although at times I struggle trying to understand them. In the case of Corinne and Mike Sr., I had difficulty reconciling who these characters were at the beginning of the novel and who they became as the novel progressed. It just did not seem very likely or logical. I could not draw a line from where they started to where they ended up. With that said, the characters did become real to me. I found myself wanting to shout at them, to do something to help them recognize the impact of their behavior and actions.

I am impressed with JCO's skill as a writer. She delivers a complex plot with richly drawn characters and events that frustrate the reader as much as they challenge the characters. I did not like how the story ended; I felt the ending was not honest to the story. ( )
  afkendrick | Oct 24, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 83 (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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Epigraph
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
Dedication
for my "Mulvaneys" . . .
First words
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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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.

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