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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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4.0 out of 5 stars What is a family, after all, except memories?, 30 Dec 2009
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This review is from: We Were the Mulvaneys (Paperback)
Told by the "caboose" of the family "train", Judd, the youngest son of the Mulveneys, this book is a moving "family story", all the more touching for the complexity and variety of its characters. I suppose every reader can find a part of himself among its pages. Despite the personal and sad events that strike the family, despite the questionable way of reacting to them, "The Mulvaneys" are and remain a "family", united by those tiny little experiences which are the essence of a family, who every one of us have experienced, in their own way, and that are meaningful only to the people who lived those experiences together. What I loved most of this book is exactly that sense of what a family is, its contradictions, its being a whole thing despite its diversities, its memories shared also by whom wasn't already there (Judd!), even its specific family "code", which would be so mysterious for anyone looking from the outside.
"We were the Mulvaneys" is a very enjoyable book, and there is much more in it of what I've just said, of course. It's up to you do discover it!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good book-liked it, 25 May 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: We Were the Mulvaneys (Paperback)
I'd like to say that reading through many of these reviews I think some of the people either did not read the book or completely missed the point of it. JCO wrote this book and made extremely realistic and believable. I do not know how some of you can write and say the book is unrealistic and this couldn't happen in real life. Just because Marianne Mulvaney's parents made a bad decision, this does not mean that it's unrealistic. Parents MAKE those bad decisions. You must also take into account Michael Mulvaneys trouble with his parents. Unintentionally he will do the same thing. The only reason some people are giving this book a low rating is because they didn't agree with certain decisions made by the children or parents. This is wrong because if it made them feel strongly about it, it means this is a pretty darn good piece of writing. JCO has once again proved herself to be a terrific writer.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars My first Oates book, and my last Oates book...., 4 Mar 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: We Were the Mulvaneys (Paperback)
I was amazed that some of what I read in the dustcover blurbs compared this writing to Dickens and James. If this was representative of Oates' writing I won't be reading her again. The characters were without depth. The situations were created without subtlety. And I found the shifting point of view irritating: if the youngest son would have been the consistent storyteller the telling of the story might have been improved. Had I seen "Day-glo" once more I'd have thrown the book away!
Maybe it would have been less tedious if it had been around 150 pages shorter.
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18 of 28 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars an utter disappointment, 25 Mar 2002
By 
kreed@pbj.cz (Prague, Czech Republic) - See all my reviews
This review is from: We Were the Mulvaneys (Paperback)
I'm a Joyce Carol Oates fan from way back, and I know there are lots of us out there. But this novel is not only the worst Oates novel I have ever read, it's one of the worst novels I have had the misfortune to purchase in years. The problem, ultimately, is the pacing of the story. Some writers manage to breath enormous color and depth into the slightest stories. Oates does the opposite with the Mulvaneys. She stretches out to the limits of human endurance the telling of a tale that would have had tremendous power and impact if given the opposite treatment. Much of the book is devoted to "telling" (basic fiction writers workshop violation here) the thoughts of the main characters -- especially those of the excruciatingly dull matriarch of the Mulvaney family -- as they struggle with a catastrophic family event that I found myself longing for some "present moment" dialogue or plot event. And it's a challenge, no doubt, to invent a story about a "perfect" American family without resorting to cliche. Unfortunately, Oates fails at that, too. The result is a badly edited (there are many, many fact errors and inconsistencies in this book; in one scene, cherry cobbler turns into apple crisp in the course of one family dinner), tiresome, dull meditation on a family drama, like The Waltons on thorazine. That Oprah put it on her book list is even less surprising than the fact that it sold a gazillion copies and won such respectable reviews. What's the publishing world coming to?
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 3 Sep 2014
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Classic Oates - riveting from the first word to the last
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars and we needed editing., 23 July 2012
By 
Cole Davis (London) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: We Were the Mulvaneys (Paperback)
While this story of family dysfunction amid small town corruption (sorry, folksiness) is one with a fair amount of incident and character, it tends to be rather extreme. Its characters almost always make the wrong decision (except for Marianne's calling time on a number of difficult employers) and all of their problems stem from the same problem, not expressing their feelings appropriately (hence no doubt Oprah Winfrey's commendation). The worst thing, however, is that there are just too many descriptions. There comes a time when nobody wants to know what they had at that particular meal or exactly what furniture was in the antiques shop at that particular time. When Rabelais did his lists of the things that Gargantua and Pantagruel ate, it was a joke. The descriptions in this book are too uninteresting and swell the book up too much to be a joke.
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5 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Slow Motion Family Disintegration and Quick Reconnection, 4 Jun 2004
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
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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5 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Slow Motion Family Disintegration and Quick Reconnection, 20 Jun 2004
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: We Were the Mulvaneys (Paperback)
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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We Were the Mulvaneys
We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates (Paperback - 2 July 2001)
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