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5.0 out of 5 stars We will always remember the Mulvaneys
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,...
Published on June 11 2004 by A. T. A. Oliveira

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Noble concept poorly executed.
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...
Published on June 21 2004 by William Krischke


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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
By 
William Krischke (Portland, OR United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: We Were the Mulvaneys (Paperback)
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.) And it drove me doubly crazy that every time the characters neared a turning point, the author pulled away from them. Patrick gets his revenge, and something changes inside him. What? How? I don't know. The author doesn't say. All we know is he quits school and only sends random postcards to his family. And Maryanne, after running away for so long, finally allows herself to be loved. How? I don't know. We cut from "the cat's not the only one that loves you" to married with children. I begin to feel that Oates is afraid of these, the most challenging moments in the stories of her characters, afraid of being trite and pedantic and heavy-handed, so she shies away from them. It's true, those are all dangers, but those are the great challenges of writing a good book. By not living up to those challenges, the heart of this story is left out. What we get, basically, is a sketch of a family that can't solve its problems, until somehow, vaguely, it does, and then there's a picnic happy ending.
This could have been a great book. It almost is a great book. It's a great concept. But the execution falls short.
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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. (British Columbia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: We Were the Mulvaneys (Paperback)
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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5.0 out of 5 stars We will always remember the Mulvaneys, June 11 2004
This review is from: We Were the Mulvaneys (Paperback)
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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3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed Feelings..., May 15 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: We Were the Mulvaneys (Paperback)
This book was very interesting, very well written but....
It is a story about the distingration about a seemingly "perfect family". Marianne, the only daughter, a devout, popular "good girl" gets raped on her prom night and this event shatters the entire family, which consists of Mom, Dad and three brothers. I enjoyed the author's prose and descriptions about farm life but I found several things wrong with this story.
1. In the beginnning of the novel, we're led to believe that this family is so close yet after the daughter's rape, the mother (Corrine) sends Marianne to live hundreds of miles away because the father (Mike Sr) can't deal with the fact that she was raped and that he did nothing to protect her. I don't understand how parents could put their own needs over their daughter's. In one scene, Mike Sr. cries that he doesn't care if he ever sees Marianne again. I thought this was all a bit farfetched.
2. The Marianne character was a little bit annoying. Banished from her family, she doesn't seem to feel any anger or shame but rather excuses the choice of her parents. At times I wanted to shout "wake up and smell the coffee and take off those rose colored glasses".
3. The book was a little too long and at times boring. I mostly skimmed the middle sections of the book and the ending was disappointing. The only character I liked was of Patrick, who seemed to be the most normal.
Overall, an ok read but not re-readable.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Slow Motion Family Disintegration and Quick Reconnection, Jan. 28 2004
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
(#1 HALL OF FAME)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: We Were the Mulvaneys (Hardcover)
The Mulvaneys were living the American dream . . . until their perfect daughter, Marianne, was brutally raped while drunk on Prom night. No one in the family is able to deal with the reality, and their inability to cope drives a splintering wedge into the family and into each of their lives. You can see the collapse coming, like the inevitable deflation of a large balloon after a tiny hole develops, but Ms. Oates wants to take you through every last possible humiliation before allowing healing and reconciliation to occur.
Interestingly, Ms. Oates chose to date this novel into a time when rape was still not spoken about much in public . . . and premarital loss of female virginity was viewed as a moral lapse (even when caused by rape). The events would have different consequences today. She also doesn't focus that much on the rape, so this isn't a book about how a family can recover from such a trauma. Rather, she appears to have chosen as her theme that we need to be more open and communicative with one another. The family's collapse is due to their inability to face facts, help one another and move on. In that sense, the theme of this book is very much like the theme of Ms. Oates's more recent book, The Tattooed Girl.
We Were the Mulvaneys will appeal most to those who enjoy reading about the intimate details of family life, fun with pets and the pleasures of hobbies, gardening and outdoor life. Ms. Oates brings much enthusiasm to her portrayals of everyday events and thoughts that will ring true in their details.
This book needed a strong editorial hand, but didn't get it. It's about three times longer than it needs to be to capture the story that Ms. Oates tells. She makes a big point of having the youngest child, Judd, narrate the story . . . but everyone else narrates parts of the story that are larger than Judd's narration. The Judd narration seems tacked on rather than helpful. She would have done better to have had someone further removed be the narrator and play a bigger role. Ms. Oates also telegraphs her story . . . and you just have to keep reading page after page as she plays it out in constantly repeating detail around the same themes.
To me, Marianne is by far the most interesting and sympathetic character. I would have enjoyed reading a book that developed her story much more than this one did. She struggles with the normal feelings of guilt associated with being a victim while trying to follow the right Christian path of forgiving those who sin against her. Her path is a long and hard one, and Ms. Oates decides to skip the essential moments when she is healed.
At a time when many families are living economically fragile existences, this story will resonate with some as Mike Senior's reactions to the rape cause him to destroy his business. Other than that, there is little reason to read this book. If you want to learn more about how a person and a family should recover from rape, try a nonfiction book on that subject.
As I finished this book, I realized that we cannot tell and show others too often how much we love them.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Difficult to get through, but well worth the time spent, Jan. 11 2004
By 
Ratmammy "The Ratmammy" (Ratmammy's Town, CA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: We Were the Mulvaneys (Paperback)
WE WERE THE MULVANEYS by Joyce Carol Oates
Here's a book that I struggled with to finish, but by the time I was done with the book, I realized my time was well spent. WE WERE THE MULVANEYS by Joyce Carol Oates is a story of a once-happy family that seemed to have it all, but slowly falls apart after a tumultuous incident occurs to one of the members of the family.
The Mulvaneys are comprised of six persons: Michael Sr. is the head of the household, proud father and wonderful husband. He runs a roofing business in town, Mulvaney Roofing, which he is highly successful at. His wife, Corinne, holds down the fort, spreading love to all her children and to the love of her life. Her obsession over antiques adds to her other eccentric qualities, making her even more loveable. Mike Jr. is the oldest child, the all-around athlete and is very popular in school. Patrick is son number two, the one with the brains. He of all the children seems to be the one that likes to be alone the most and seems happiest with his thoughts and his books. Marianne is the only daughter of the family, the cheerleader type and all-around popular girl in school. Like her mother, she is a very devout Christian girl, and believes in the ideal of "turn the other cheek". Last but not least is Judd. He's the baby of the family and also the narrator of this long intense drama that tells the tragic story of their family.
Life is grand for the Mulvaneys. Home life is one busy event after another, as they live on a farm where they each handle various chores. It's busy work from morning until night but it's rewarding. Everyone seems to be happy, and there doesn't seem to be a thing wrong. But, on Marianne's prom night, something does go wrong. And as much as she tries to hide this tragic incident that scars her for life, her family eventually finds out as well as the entire town.
From this point on, life changes for the Mulvaneys. The disintegration of the family is slow but sure, and it is hard to believe how far they get from that happy family they used to be. Judd chronicles the story of their family in detail, focusing on various members at a time. The book can be difficult to read, as I found Oates' writing tedious at times. However, by the time I reached the last page, I saw where she was going with this story, and I am glad I read it. I don't recommend this book to everyone. It's not an easy book to read, but for those with the patience to get through it, they will be rewarded.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Thought Provoking Novel, June 30 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: We Were the Mulvaneys (Paperback)
This book was thought provoking. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who has had an event that made a "before and after" period in their life. It made me reflect on my own family history and how I have come to accept that people react to the same event in very different ways. The narrator of this book describes quite clearly how families can be changed by a single event- one that occurs all too frequently- but that single event makes all the difference.
The reason I didn't give this book 5 stars is because it was too much "before" and I thought the book went on too long in the beginning. Also, I had a hard time with the authors wandering thoughts. The narrator would start off with a comment that would make me think "Aha! Now we're getting to it!" Then they would go off in acompletely different direction, only to come back to it briefly at the end of the chapter. Very annoying! Still, if I skimmed the parts that didn't interest me, about 1/2 way through the book I was hooked!
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1.0 out of 5 stars repulsive, March 15 2003
By 
lyla tov (United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: We Were the Mulvaneys (Paperback)
all the bad reviews here echo my thoughts on the writing, character development, plot, narration, etc.
this is also my first oates book & i found it so thoroughly unpleasent that i've decided it will be my last.
the character development was horrendous, but just let me add my 2cents in here: i found it really sickening how the author portrayed the female characters in this book. she wanted you to feel some sympathy for corrine & marrianne but they were so utterly grotesque in their protrayals, it makes me wonder if this author is 100% mentally all there herself.
the mother was from the outset really irritatingly annoying & shallow, never got better, never achieved insight or redempton, nothing, nada...
the [attack] vitim was a caraciture of a "solied" girl turned martyred saint who accepts the responsiblity FOR the [attack], for every horrible thing ever done to her a we are supposed to think that she is "good girl" horribly wronged, ... with mental problems---she comes off across as less of a human being than i have EVER read in any book--and without proper reasoning,as if we are just to believe that her being a devout Christian is the only reason for this. her character borders on complete idiocy; you cannot help but be revolted by her --NOT the [attack]--which by the way, & i find this horribly disturbing---is never explained totally AS [an attack]!
the author puts some doubt in the text to suggest that it may have not been [an attack]--which is really something when you go on to consider how she describes marriane as a person w/ classical post-traumatic stress disorder, who in the examinatng room has torn genitals & bruises (& even explained as to be caused from where the [attacker] was 'thrusting' upon her...), who describes the [attacker] as using violent language & swearing at her during the [attack], ..but...amazingly, we are supposed to hold a thread of doubt as to if it really was [an attack]....HUH?!?
or to believe that marrianne has complete & immediate sympathy for the boy who [attacked] her?! like , it would be OK w/ Jesus, maybe, (..& after all, she had been drinking, so she 'deserved' to be attacked, ripped, ... ...????!)...so that's her reaction..?!!! NOT that she would be concerned at all that a predatory boy like that would [attack] again? maybe even one of her classmates???
if she had JUST been drinking & blacked out & woke up raped, that'd be more plausible, that she didnt know what went on, but, HELLO?, she, her character & the 3rd person narrator TELL us all this other information, & STILL the author wants to put 'doubt' in our minds about it or to have marriane doubt herself about it being a rape!
this story was deeply offensive & not less so in describing the male charaters. the father charater is just a bloody mess, he's thrown out of character at us so violently in a 180 degree turn (&good old mom, too)
...but here im thinking abt the brothers.
they really dont seem to care at all when the [attack] happens. there's no feeling at all for their sister, they accept her banishment, too , without a word, like she didn't matter. only later does patrick develop a selfish sense of justice he wants to avenge, which didnt have much, again, to do with any love he really felt for his sister.
in real life, the Mule character would've at least kicked someone's [butt] if HE felt so slighted, i mean it is high school & he is a dumb jock.
there was the tiniest glimmer that in dealing with the males , the author would've explored the way men are 'naturally' inclined to being sexually predatory & how that, those feelings & actions, would have colored how they reacted to the rape & in their own lives..THAT would have been interesting, if it was done in a delicate & realistic manner, which this author seems woefully inadequate to handle, based on this book , in which all the charaters are so unbelievable & selfish & utterly unknowing about love or compassion, empathy or understanding.
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1.0 out of 5 stars country bumpkins lose the farm--boo hoo, Jan. 30 2003
This review is from: We Were the Mulvaneys (Paperback)
I bought this book to read while I was recovering from surgery, otherwise I never would have finished it. The beginning is completely boring description of the farm the family lives on. It goes on and on . . . . all I did was was wait for something to happen, and finally, the horrible tragedy happens, the teen girl gets raped.
No one in the family seems to deal w/ the issue well at all, and this seems to get blamed for every bad thing that happens after that. At first I thought to myself, these parents and the community aren't handling this tragedy very well, and of course I feel sorry fot the victim, but I say, well, it's supposed to be the 70's, people did things differently then, but it wasn't just that. i came to realize I detested every character in this book. The father was a womanizer and a jerk, and it sounds like he married Corinne, the wife because she was a virgin and the only woman who'd put up with him. Corinne was pathetic, initially stealing Michael Sr. away from her friend when she was supposed to be getting them back together, and considering herself lucky to be with him because he was handsome. She did nothing when he badmouthed her own parents in front of their children. The worst thing was when she sent Marianne away to make her husband happy. And for no one reason that I could see, Marianne completely heals herself and forgives her family. The characters Mike, Jr. & Jud were pretty boring, but Patrick was supposed to be the big vigilante who punishes Marianne's rapist, foreshadowing this for a great deal of the book, then, at 11th hour, he forgives the guy for no explainable reason. Huh?
Nothing in this book makes sense, no character grows or becomes better or worse in a way that makes sense. Don't bother w/ this one!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Sad Story Worth Reading, Jan. 24 2003
By 
John Standiford (Cypress, California) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: We Were the Mulvaneys (Paperback)
Think you have the perfect American family? Honestly, how strong is it and where does it unravel? Joyce Carol Oates answers that question in this riveting book about the impact of a violent crime on what was thought to be the perfect family.
First off, I should explain that this isn't a light read that will put a smile on your face. While the ending provides a little ray of positive hope, you are dealing with a story that spends a lot of time on how people hurt each other. The physical victim of crime is only the first person to feel pain. The impacts can then cascade to others and as a reader of this book, you will feel some of that pain.
Recently there have been a few other books that have explored this topic in different ways. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold is one example and Donna Tartt's new book, The Little Friend reminds me of this book too.
What makes this book memorable is Oates'writing. I've found that people either love her work or hate it with a passion. Count me as a fan. I'll admit that she could be more concise and she rarely writes anything too light and refreshing, but she never fails to elicit my emotions. In many cases, they are feelings that don't make me all that comfortable but they do make me think.
This book is worth reading although it will upset and sadden you. It's worth reading because you will react and you will examine a number of very important issues.
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We Were the Mulvaneys
We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates (Paperback - Sept. 8 1997)
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