Gripping & distressing but ultimately a pearl of great price
By Steven Charnick "a solo cello outside a chorus" - February 8, 2001
The Oprah book club selections are certainly getting more complex!
This book will strike an immediate chord to a family 'putting on airs' yet within the house having its problems. It hithome for me and will most likely hit home for many others because we know of families that seem perfect.... and often we find out much later what was truly happening.
I do not believe that the choice of Mt. Ephraim as the hometown of the Mulvaneys was by accident. Ephraim and Manasseh were sons of Joseph - and while the latter committed heinous crimes against all moral authority, Ephraim was a redeemer. A striking metaphor against which much hurt is set - and one missed by the editorial reviewers.
This family functions quite well - all that we'd say is 'too good to be true' *is* actually true until Marianne, the girl so beautifully described that we actually *feel* she's the 'girl next door' to *us* is sexually assaulted. Actually, we are never told whether it was rape... read more
Good story, but tedious to read...
By Dianna Setterfield "Compulsive Reader" - December 19, 2001
There is no doubt in my mind that Joyce Carol Oates is a wonderfully gifted writer. However, I don't believe her writing style is for everyone. We Were the Mulvaneys, however evident of Oates's talent, is a tedious, overdescriptive work that takes patience and perseverence to get through.We Were the Mulvaneys is the story of the Mulvaney family in the mid-1970s. They are the more-than-typical family, like the ones on TV who play games together in the living room after dinner. A little on the corny side, but the love they share for each other is obvious in the beginning chapters. Then something happens to one of the family members - a tragedy atrocious and unforgettable - that threatens to tear the Mulvaneys apart.While the story itself was very good, I could not get into the book. I was hoping maybe it would be a late-bloomer, but there was never a point that I reached that inspired me to keep reading. I did finish the novel, but only after a week of exhausting myself... read more
By Phyllis A. Koch - January 29, 2001
This novel speaks volumes about how families fall apart and are mended again. The book is engrossing; the story spins out then out of control to a point of terrible sorrow; then it is spun into something more resilent than it was before. It takes one twist in a young woman's life to push the family to its knees. Her misstep resonated within her family to the point of destruction. The twist was a sexual assault; the girl was drinking for the first time, got in the wrong car, and was raped by a popular kid from school. The impact on the Mulvaneys- who all seemed perfect- was shattering. They try to stand together, but the town turns against them once the accusation is made public. Since the story takes place in the '60's, the rape made the girl into both the agressor and the victim. The father, who took such pride in his family, especially his only daughter, takes to drink. He also decides he can't stand to sight of Marianne and all the ruin she has thus far brought to the family. He... read more
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