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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A hard lesson in growing up
The core of the plot in this novel is around the reaction of a family to the rape of their idolised daughter. However, what I really took out of the book is not how to cope with a specific catastrophe, but the importance of inner strength compared to people who rely on external validation to make them feel good about who they are. The degeneration of the father is centred...
Published on 31 Dec 2006 by Zannie

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Rather Frustrating Read
Although the story is captivating, it just takes forever for Ms. Oates to tell it. The reader ends up knowing more detail about the characters than they probably know about themselves. After wading through it all, the ending is rather rushed and disappointing.
Published on 31 Mar 1999


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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A hard lesson in growing up, 31 Dec 2006
By 
This review is from: We Were the Mulvaneys (Paperback)
The core of the plot in this novel is around the reaction of a family to the rape of their idolised daughter. However, what I really took out of the book is not how to cope with a specific catastrophe, but the importance of inner strength compared to people who rely on external validation to make them feel good about who they are. The degeneration of the father is centred around his perception of what his family think of him, his clients and the various people of the town. His daughter, while somewhat supported internally by her own faith also appears to measure herself through external recognition, while feeling uncomfortable with it at the same time. The catalyst of her rape flings the characters apart, in some instances across the country and while there is more focus on some family members than others, the theme for all is the same in that they avoid a reconciliation with each other until they have come to terms with themselves and formed their own roots away from the central unit.

The lesson they are learning is that the family of one's childhood is never a permanent fixture and that growing away from it is an essential part of truly growing up. The wonderfully strong character of Corinne Mulvaney, the mother of the family, is fortunately the character that her children have inherited and while sometimes they lose their way on the journey, all 4 children are able to leave and develop the various next generations of Mulvaney.

The family is completely different at the close of the novel, but fundamentally intact as, with the exception of Michael Mulvaney Sr, they are all people who have learned to love and appreciate themselves for who they are before returning to the family unit to share their experiences and ensure that the whole is indeed greater than the sum of its parts.

One note on this edition - the editing is slack, with some grammar and spelling errors, plus some continuity issues in the detail.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book that will touch your heart!, 30 May 2001
By A Customer
I bought this book on a recent trip, and I'm so glad that I did. I have never read a book that moved me so much, I could really feel for this poor family. Usually, I find it hard to absorb myself in a book, before I've read the first 100 pages but this time, I couldnt put it down from the very beginning.
The book brought home to me how vulnerable we all are, that we could all fall victim to an event that would destroy our lives as we know them. The rape of Marianne Mulvaney, changed the lives of all the characters in a different way, they all were all vastly changed people as the novel concluded to the way they were at the beginning, it highlighted the way a single event can change the entire attitudes and thinking of a whole family.
Marianne was not the only victim of the rape, her parents were and also her three brothers, and it destroyed them as a family. A family who had "everything", and were greatly admired in the community of Mount Ephraim, were suddenly outcasts, in financial difficulty and fighting amongst themselves. Their whole lives changed for the worst...
I would recommend this book to anyone, in fact I already have. It shows that however deep problems go, eventually they'll sort themselves out. The Mulvaney family will never be far from my thoughts.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Powerful saga, 10 Oct 2001
By 
Louise (Horsham, West Sussex) - See all my reviews
This review is from: We Were the Mulvaneys (Paperback)
I have just finished reading "We Were The Mulvaneys" and I found it very interesting. It is a long book (c. 450 pages) and quite heavy-going at times, but there is always so much to think about. You get to see the story from so many characters' points of view and although you always have your own opinion on what happened, the author manages to convey everyone's different feelings so that we understand why each character feels that way, even if we disagree.
This is a book that really makes you think. See if you can read it at the same time as a friend so you have someone to discuss it with.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Rather Frustrating Read, 31 Mar 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: We Were the Mulvaneys (Paperback)
Although the story is captivating, it just takes forever for Ms. Oates to tell it. The reader ends up knowing more detail about the characters than they probably know about themselves. After wading through it all, the ending is rather rushed and disappointing.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars If This Is Reality, Then I Live In An Alternate Universe, 10 Dec 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: We Were the Mulvaneys (Paperback)
First of all I like JCO's writing, but this book stunned me with its characters, all of whom seem to make the most horrible decisions in life. I was frustrated and angry with every single one of them all through the book. I cannot believe that people would respond in this manner to the ordeal of the daughter. I am sad to finish many books because I know that I will miss the characters that I have just spent hours with. When I finished this book I had a different feeling. I said good riddance to all of them.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Joyce Carol Oates succeeds again, 1 Dec 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: We Were the Mulvaneys (Paperback)
As an obsessive Joyce Carol Oates fan I am always conscious of the recent press highlighting (or should I say creating) the struggle between quality and quantity with her writing. I always take these criticisms to heart each time I pick up one of her novels. I think with this book, Joyce Carol Oates has captured a grotesque, yet painfully real piece of Americana again. At the beginning, I found the characters to be too idealistic. I thought a borderline scientific genius and an almost too Christian daughter could never develop from the same household. But as I read on, I thought maybe they were too real rather than idealistic. I realized the novel is through the voice of Judd, the youngest and often times forgotten Mulvaney. Oates captures his personal thoughts and his depictions of his family perfectly. Like always, Oates masters a voice so vividly and accurately, almost making the reader forget who is speaking. Often times in life, we pass others that are almost walking hyperboles because we view them through our own distorted lens. Oates proves to me once again she is a master at depicting the painfully real grotesque that envelopes all of our lives. This is a must read!!
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Good but Took a Long Time To Get There, 11 Oct 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: We Were the Mulvaneys (Paperback)
I must admit that the only reason that i had read this book was because it was recommended on the Oprah Book Club List.
And once I had started to read it I realised how much out of practice i was with reading.Having returned to books after having 2 children ( and now some spare time )it was my first proper 'Grown Up' book that i have read for a long time.
I think this is why it took my so long to really get into it.
I knew the basics of the book, typical american family, daughter gets attacked and is sent away and how this affects the family.
This is correct but i found the first half of the book very slow and hard going, but maybe that was me.
But once the introduction of the whole family and how they live is passed I was drawn in and had to carry on.
It is very difficult to understand why they do certain things because unless you are that certain family you don't understand.
You start with wishing that your life was like theirs, carefree, loving and living life to the full.
Then you are shattered by the complete break-up of not only the family but the individuals themselves.
All the way through you are uplifted and brought down again.Then again, isn't that what real life is like !!!
It is very tragic but i will say without giving too much away that the ending is wonderful so please don't stop.
It is worth it !!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I was not disappointed by this book, 8 Nov 2001
By 
This review is from: We Were the Mulvaneys (Paperback)
Part way through this book I wondered how any of these realistic characters would survive. It struck me that maybe we all wish our family could stay as it is in our memories, but sometimes outside circumstances change it. The book tells the story of not only the family's struggle to survive as a whole but each character in that family as well. I was not disappointed by this book at all. It is a lovely, satisfying story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars While there is still time, 3 Oct 2009
By 
Eileen Shaw "Kokoschka's_cat" (Leeds, England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: We Were the Mulvaneys (Paperback)
The Mulvaneys are well-off, secure, Mike Mulvaney is a proud man, raised in poverty he works hard, builds up his own roofing business; his wife Corinne is large-hearted, resourceful, loving. They live out of town in a rambling, forty acre farm. The children have horses, ponies, dogs, cats, there are goats, there are cows, and it is a kind of wonderful refuge from the politics of the time - from Vietnam, from the ugliness of city and suburb. They are good people, living the good life, struggling sometimes but respected and liked in their small community, until one terrible act tears the family apart.

There is retribution, but the cost has to be paid by everyone involved. Only their goodness, their ordinary worth, shines through. This may sound like the grossest sentimentality, but there is room for a view that goodness exists and Joyce Carol Oates makes it seem perverse to deny that it can. They are not some kind of automatons after all, nor painted as something unique and especially wonderful. They do ordinary things, they lie to each other continually, they do not communicate what they feel, they behave badly, often. But they struggle always not to hurt too much the people they love. They have a rough, honourable kindness about them, even the father whose fate is the worst that can be imagined. I was reminded of lines in Philip Larkin's poem, The Mower:

We should be careful
Of each other, we should be kind
While there is still time.

The ending - one of the best and most gratifying I can recall reading - is beautiful.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pace yourself for this family marathon-finish line is superb, 21 Oct 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: We Were the Mulvaneys (Paperback)
The Mulvaneys inexplicably hold themselves up to higher standards than mere mortals--and have to pay with their lives for this arrogance. This is a compelling group of characters, mother, father, and four children, that will stamp themselves in your physce long after you put the novel down. I was mesmerized throughout but was awed by the epilogue--a truly satisfying end to a rich, complex novel.
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The Perennial Collection - We Were the Mulvaneys
The Perennial Collection - We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates (Paperback - 4 Feb 2008)
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