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We Were the Mulvaneys [Paperback]

Joyce Carol Oates
3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (423 customer reviews)

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Rubbish March 18 2008
By J.E.L.
Some things never cease to amaze me. How books like this ever get published is one of them. Had it not been written by such a famous author, I doubt it would have made it past an agent. The writing is weak and bland, the storyline heavily disguised in a mess of mind-numbing filler that serves no purpose whatsoever.

For example: We're given directions on how to get to the family farm from Route 58, first the shortcut then the long route (or maybe the other way around), a blow by blow account of every street, every turn - take another right and a left and a right at the square... This went on for THREE pages.
She spent two pages on clocks, all the clocks that were "busily tick-tick-ticking" through the house, describing each one ad nauseam, from the "Chautauqua Valley steeple pendulum clock of the 1850s" to the "small cream-colored ceramic mantel clock with garlands of tiny painted rosebuds, golden pendulum and delicate hands, a chime like the sweetest of birdcalls."

If this review is putting you to sleep, try reading 400 pages of the stuff. To make matters worse, the story is written in first person, a 30-year-old male, supposedly, who often sounds more like the stereotypical doddering old lady. He relays details, page after relentless page, that he couldn't possibly know, unless he was able to clone himself and be in more than one place at a time. No room for suspension of disbelief here, I'm afraid.

On the cover, the Chicago Tribune calls this book "Oates's finest." If that's really the case, I can't imagine her worst. If I could give this book zero stars, I would.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Noble concept poorly executed. June 21 2004
Shortly after I finished reading this book, I heard an interview of the author that improved my opinion of the book. Wait, how's that? Am I reviewing the book or the author? Good question. What I should say is that the interview with the author made me respect what the author was attempting to do in the book. It's a noble venture. And don't tell me that outside information, including other's opinions, doesn't affect your own opinion about a book. That's what book clubs are about, after all, and incidentally, this is one of Oprah's pick. All hail Oprah, patron saintess of new authors. JC Oates isn't a new author, though.
What was I saying. Oh yes. The author's intentions were noble. To hear her talk about the book surely makes one want to read it. It's the story of a father who loves his daughter so much he disowns her, and then lets his love for her destroy his marriage, career, and life. It's a story of a tragedy that affects the victim less than it affects those around her. (am I spelling "affect" right? should it be "effect?") It's a story of how, for one character, botched revenge brings more relief than perfect revenge. Doesn't that sound compelling?
The problem is, it's not all that compelling. I got tired of the characters: all of them, starting with the sunny sweet mother, then the overly analytical Patrick, than the overly aggressive, angry head in the sand father, and finally the oh-so-innocent. Basically in the order the focus shifts, I grow tired. And more than the characters, I grew frustrated with the author's techniques. It drove me crazy that sometimes Judd told the story and sometimes Judd was a character in the story (Judd did this, said that, instead of I did this, did that.
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5.0 out of 5 stars We will always remember the Mulvaneys June 11 2004
In the very fist line of Joyce Carol Oates's "We were the Mulvaneys" a statement and a question are made. What is stated is something that will be dealt with throughout the whole novel, but the question cannot be answered right away. However the answer will be a huge 'yes' once you have finished the novel.
The first line of the novel reads "We were the Mulvaneys, remember us?" By beginning with such device, Oates, skilled as she is, immediately immerses he reader in the in that family's universe. The voice of her narrator is so powerful, that from the beginning one may be afraid of saying no. This narrator is the youngest Mulvaney, Judd, who sees his family falling apart after the so-called rape of his sister. However young he is, he has such a sense of persuasion that we almost take for granted what he says.
However, as the plot unfolds, one notices that he is still a child and is trying to cope with the destruction of the institution in which he trusted, which is his family. As lost as he is, he seeks for help from every member, but everyone is so immersed in his/her own problems that the boy finds no comfort.
In her faulkneresk novel, Oates shows the importance of the ties that bound us together with our parents and siblings. Her plots resonates one of the best novels written in English, "The Sound and the Fury", and, although she may have been inspired by Faulkner, she still has her own talent and approach. And these qualities are what make this novel so strong and unique.
There is no doubt that Oates is one of the best writers of her generation. She has a special eye for society --and what backs it up, i.e. family-- that is changing. And with "We were the Mulvaneys" she discusses pertinent subjects. Society is changing because of families --or the other way round? This is not an easy question to answer, and the novel doesn't try to. What Oates does with her powerful writing is to point out that things are changing and we can only accept it --or not.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars mediocre
A story of how a bad circumstance starts the downward collapse of one family unit. Each character was affected differently and profoundly. Read more
Published on May 6 2010 by lafleurpetite
4.0 out of 5 stars we were the mulvaney's
I read this book a couple of years ago....it's a great story about how a familly deals with tragedy when one of the members goes through a horrible event.
Published on Nov. 16 2005 by veronique aillerie
5.0 out of 5 stars Rich in beautiful language
I listened to the book on cd, and I must say, although I enjoyed it and felt the actor did a great job, I missed actually reading the language used by Oates throughout... Read more
Published on July 11 2004 by J. Kastanias
4.0 out of 5 stars Uplifting, inspiring family tale? No. But still a great read
In reading some of the blurbs about this book in the first few pages and on the back cover, one is led to believe that it is an inspiring story about the power of love and the... Read more
Published on June 6 2004 by kmg9g
3.0 out of 5 stars cool characters, overheated setting
The four young characters, while a bit too perfect, were engaging; you rooted for them and hoped they'd make it through the tragedy as more mature folk. Read more
Published on May 23 2004
3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed Feelings...
This book was very interesting, very well written but....
It is a story about the distingration about a seemingly "perfect family". Read more
Published on May 15 2004
3.0 out of 5 stars it was ok
i wouldn't read it again. or for that matter recommend it to anyone because it was sort of boring. it was really slow.
Published on April 15 2004 by corinne schinzler
4.0 out of 5 stars an intimate look inside a "perfectly" dysfunctional family
Many of the reviews I've read about this book complain of the unrealistic or shallow characters. I personally could not put this book down, and read it in a weekend. Read more
Published on March 7 2004 by bookworm in entrelac
1.0 out of 5 stars Tedious and Painful... don't buy into the hype
For all the great reviews this book has received, I found it to just be terrible. The writing was overly descriptive and the characters shallow.
Published on Feb. 25 2004
1.0 out of 5 stars UGH! A tedious story about a terrible family
Man, I hated this book. I don't hate a lot of books, but I really hated this one. I only finished it because I had already invested a lot of time in it, otherwise I would have... Read more
Published on Feb. 9 2004 by A. Quinn
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