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on 1 May 2017
I’m crying as I write this review, moved to tears by this shocking, heart-breaking novella. This is not an easy book to read. JCO does not include any descriptions of Teena’s actual assault, events are hinted at which is a relief. Details descriptions of a violent assault and a beating that is almost an attempted murder would sicken me. What made my heart ache the most was how Teena and her daughter and torn apart by the media. Teena was asking for it. She was drinking and dressed like a s*** so she asked for it. She walked home the scenic way so obviously asked for it. My heart broke for Teena. One thing about this novella is its relevance. I have no doubt what happened to Teena and her daughter will resonate for a lot of readers. We live in a society where such assault is common and victims are vilified and blamed and it disgusts me. I really felt for Teena. The event changes her; how she’s seen by the world, her daughter, her family and herself. She is two people, the Teena before the assault and the broken women after. It’s clear her ordeal will have an impact on her and her daughter for a long time. This is not an easy read but it is essential. I love it even though I hated what it was about and would recommend it.
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on 10 June 2015
This is a masterful if relentlessly dark tale of urban alienation, redeemed by its fluid, pared-down narration and strong voices.

Like a dog circling a corpse, the author uses the first nine chapters gradually to zone in on the rape - which is eventually described from the point of view of the terrified 12 year old daughter of Teena, the flirty thirty-something victim of a horrific gang attack.

The narrative switches between the viewpoints of Teena, her daughter Bethie, her boyfriend Casey, the avenging policeman Dromoor, and several of the congenitally stupid and remorseless perpetrators. This generally works well, though all of the characters are hunted and haunted. In the background is the run down, leftover north-eastern town of Buffalo which seems devoid of beauty or hope. Social devastation is the norm.

The first part is followed by chilling if sketchy pre-trial hearings. The ruthlessly clever defence attorney portrays Teena as an alcoholic-druggie slut, whose desperate but willing prostitution to the crystal meths gang got out of control. Meanwhile, the neighbourhood gossips jealously blame Teena for encouraging rape by her lifestyle, pitilessly exaggerating the victim's supposedly risky behaviour: 'That Maguire woman, she had it coming.' Despair overwhelms.

The last third of the book loses some of its emotional force as the obsessive policeman John Dromoor carries out a series of vengeful murders of the chief rapists. Though predictably satisfying, the vigilante killings let the reader off the hook: they are a fantasy denouement which reduce the effect in the reader's mind of the suffering and degradation of the victims.

However, Oates has a final sting in the tale. We are left with a coda of brief, stark portraits of Bethie and Dromoor, years later, living apparently normal lives with their very different families, from which they feel deeply estranged.
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on 6 March 2016
I really wish this had a different title. I understand that it's referring to the love story between the rape survivor and her family, rather than the rapists, but it's such an unnecessarily misleading title that it makes it hard for me to recommend this book to anyone without babbling a caveat beforehand. That said, I have recommended this book, because I think that - despite the title - it's a fairly nuanced look at the problems within the justice system when it comes to the crime of rape, and at the deeper culture of victim blaming within society as a whole. The only part I didn't like was the ending, but I don't think it detracted from the rest of the book. Read with caution as it's obviously incredibly visceral and traumatic in places, to necessary effect.
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on 16 January 2017
This is such a powerful book about the reality of rape, victim blaming, the corruption of law enforcement and the justice system, and the trauma involved. I would recommend this book although I would caution that there is a graphic scene in the opening pages of the novella.
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on 21 September 2014
A traumatic and unflinching, but beautifully written short novel by the amazing JCO. This book will remain with you. Highly recommended
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on 1 September 2016
Good book, worth a read
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on 21 August 2015
Good novel
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on 10 April 2006
If this is the first book that you have read by Joyce Carol Oates and I can guaruntee that you won't be dissapointed.
You will find your perceptions of victim and assailant constantly challenged, wondering how this tragic start to a story could ever be resolved. And Yet Oates manages to drag us in to this world of the victim of a gang rape and her daughter who witnessed the event.
Your heart is twisted continually as you are dropped into the story at crucial moments allowed to feel what the victim feels and yet see the perceptions of others towards a victim of rape.
Each character is carefully and beautifully painted and this book has an unbearable tension as we wait to see if justice can ever be done. And yet without any air of predictability the story is beautifully resolved and leaves the reader breathless with relief and wanting to pick it up and start again! Try it and see for yourself
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on 2 January 2017
First published in 2003, this is a book that feels like it was written in an ice-cold rage. JCO's control never slips in her version of what has become a desperately familiar story: the brutalised woman who finds herself on trial for 'asking for' her rape.

But, then, this is Joyce Carol Oates and so the story doesn't stop there, and instead takes a controversial direction that left me both disturbed and profoundly questioning my own moral and ethical response to characters and events. Is Dromoor the hero that we all want on our side - or is he something more terrifying?

This is only a short book, easily read in a couple of hours, but its intensity belies the number of pages here. The shifting narrative that skips between characters bypasses the mundane and goes straight for the heart of what's at stake.

There have been a number of recent novels which have explored issues of rape, non-consent, violence against women, the legal treatment of sexual crimes and while I applaud the fact that this topic is getting the public exposure it deserves the books haven't been controversial in themselves. What JCO does here is illuminated with her usual bold, courageous and yes, disturbing intelligence: a short novel that makes us both feel and think.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 29 January 2012
In one of the USA's most famous honeymoon hotspots, Niagara Falls, a group of friends are having a party to celebrate July 4th. Thirty-one year old widow Teena Maguire and her 12 year old daughter Bethel are at Teena's boyfriend's house and decide to walk home. Teena has had a few drinks and foolishly makes a mistake that nearly costs both their lives. Rather than take the well-lit route home along the road, she decides to walk back through the park. A gang of young local men, drunk and high on methamphetamine force the mother and daughter into a filthy boat house, physically beat both of them and when the daughter wriggles away and hides in a corner, they rape and kick Teena so badly that she's left bleeding on the floor, close to death.

It doesn't take long for the men to be identified - and even less time for the rumours and allegations to start; rumours not about the violent young men but about their victim. Teena's only crime was to be too young and pretty, to dress provocatively and not to conform to people's expectations of a young widow. Once the physical wounds are healed and Teena is out of hospital, we go to court with her and Bethel for the initial hearing. The mother of two of the attackers sits in the front row muttering "Bitch! Whore! Liar" at Teena. Her husband hires his 'boys' a top defence lawyer - a man with no qualms about destroying the victims if it keeps his clients out of prison or gets them a reduced sentence. Threatening notes are left at Teena and Bethel's home, Bethel gets bullied at school. The boyfriend can't deal with what's happened.

I feared I could see exactly where it was going - that the societal psychological 'rape' of Teena would be every bit as painful and devastating as the physical rape of July 4th. I could see that the only way out for the attackers was to totally destroy their victims in a long, drawn-out and painful way by turning society against them and using the constraints of the legal system to help their cases. I was reminded of the 1988 Oscar-winning film 'The Accused' in which Jodie Foster plays the victim and Kelly McGillis her lawyer. What I wasn't expecting - and what I loved - was the quiet, covert but beautifully effective way that Teena's 'avenging angel' takes things into his own hands. This is the love story of the title - the quiet, hidden revenge acted out without the knowledge of the victims and delivered so much more effectively than the 'law' could ever do. Yes, it is a love story - but a very strange one and not one that fits any of the usual moulds.

It would be easy to dismiss this book as not saying anything new - to claim that the whole debate around 'asking for it' has been given many millions of words of attention over the years. It's sometimes not WHAT you write that matters - it's HOW you write it that counts and JCO writes this beautifully. I've been reading her books (and more often buying and then NOT reading them) for 25 years now and this is one of the best. When she writes with brevity she writes best and these 154 pages are carefully crafted in a way that makes you think that every word was chosen carefully.
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