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3.22 of 5 stars 3.22  ·  rating details  ·  1,889 ratings  ·  401 reviews
A riveting novel that explores the high price of success in the life of one woman—the first female president of a lauded ivy league institution—and her hold upon her self-identity in the face of personal and professional demons, from Joyce Carol Oates, author of the New York Times bestseller A Widow’s Story

Mudgirl is a child abandoned by her mother in the silty flats of th
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published March 20th 2012 by Ecco (first published January 1st 2012)
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Beverly It was a very grisly section of the story. I think that and the 'rape' were dreams or hallucinations. But then you wondered what else was a figment of…moreIt was a very grisly section of the story. I think that and the 'rape' were dreams or hallucinations. But then you wondered what else was a figment of her confused mind. For example, did she really run over the 'dirty-skinned boy' at the end? At first I thought not but then it seemed that was the intention. But then did he in fact really exist at all?(less)

Community Reviews

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Gary  the Bookworm
Photobucket Pictures, Images and PhotosThis is an engrossing but unsettling psychological tale about an accomplished academic who begins to unravel after long-repressed memories from early childhood engulf her. Oates blends gothic horror with behind the scenes politics in the rarified world of an ivy league university. That she can so effectively convey this world, and a depiction of life in a sleepy city in upstate NY, is not surprising given her storytelling gifts. What makes this so compelling is that you aren't sure if what you ...more
May 12, 2012 Juta rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: No-one
Shelves: tried-to-read
I felt like I'd been reading this book for hours when I first wanted to give up on it. I told myself to give it fifty pages and got past seventy, but it was hard going. Every. Single. Sentence. is overwritten. I felt like the author wanted to say after each paragraph, "Did you see how poetic my prose was? Huh? Huh? Did ya? Did you see how chock full of meaning it all is? Huh? Which is a pity, because I felt that the story itself was going somewhere. But the writing stopped me caring about where ...more
Lolly LKH
I got a hold of a rare edition advanced release read. So time to dig in.


This novel is darkly disturbing and I love it. As with many Oates novels, it begins slowly and creeps along until you feel as if you are experiencing M.R.'s life. I am in awe of the writer that can make me feel what the character is feeling. After I finished Mudwoman, I felt anxious and just thought 'whoa'. I know other people have said that it 'goes nowhere'. I suppose if one's goal in reading literature is to

I intentionally waited several weeks to attempt to review JCO's Mudwoman: it left me with a really empty feeling inside, realizing that one of my favorite brood-meisters has quite possibly reached the end of her career, and I so hoped I could show it some Goodreads love and let it percolate its way into a 5-star rating. Um...nope...the 3.11 cume (so far) doesn't lie: it's a creaky mess. And all the more saddening if you realize it was written after her husband of 45+ years passed away, and seems
I really want to write a good review of this book. I really do. But, I just can't. This was my first Joyce Carol Oates attempt and I was initially enthralled with the book's premise: the story of a now successful woman who, as a child, was left for dead in a mud flat by her insane mother.
The story of her fight for survival(and eventual success) could have been a heart wrenching and compelling one. Instead, it was confusing and lacked the emotional dynamism I would expect from such a story.
Monica Casper
As an academic and a (former) administrator, there was much that I truly loved about this book. Oates perfectly captures the interior life and exterior "performance" of academic administration; I saw in Meredith many recognizable qualities, and occasionally, I saw myself. The first third of the book is lovely as we come to know Meredith and her childhood counterpart, Merry. There were times I thought, this could be Marya all grown up (referencing an earlier Oates book that defined my college yea ...more
There is almost nothing more exciting than finding a new Joyce Carol Oates book on the library shelves. Her newest, Mudwoman, shines with her usual brilliance on every page, captures a kind of personal and social essence that is rarely achieved in literature. I know the word ‘visceral’ is so overused but the actual sensation of reading this book can be described no other way. Mudgirl, Mudwoman, M.R. – an abandoned child, an adopted teenager, president of an elite university. Within her, we see t ...more
Mar 04, 2012 Don marked it as to-read
I wonder why everyone who commented on this page appears to be female. Don't men read JCO too (they should)
I usually love (or at least like a lot) Joyce Carol Oates's work. This one, however, was too ambiguous for me. Her prose is very poetic, and I admire her fluid style, as if words just pour out of her. But this tale of the disintegration of "M.R. Neukirchen", the president of a Princeton-like university, was too fraught with horrific dreams and seemingly fugue-like states to fully engage me. The question of whether something was really happening to M.R., or was she just dreaming or having psychot ...more
Linda Flood
I didn't really like this book and was surprised given how much I usually enjoy this authors work. I found the book confusing, unclear and depressing. I am still not sure which of the musings are real and which are the alter persona Mud Woman's delusions and confusion. Apart from the late connection with her father the main character seems to have no personal ties to anyone and seems to connect on more than a superficial level to no one. I wish that the moral decision regarding accepting or decl ...more
It's a terrible book. The plot is an unredeeming effort. It is all madness and the antiheroine right to the end. Feels like a bad dream wherein you are trying to flee but can only move in slow motion. I do not recommend this. Why did Oates write this? What is she trying to say? Getting old must really be depressing her.
This novel was just so-so. The peripheral characters were enjoyable, sometimes even remarkable (The foster family, the adoptive parents, and the high school math teacher were really well done.), but M.R. Neukirchen (aka Mudwoman) never quite seemed real to me. Obviously, she is deteriorating psychologically as she is placed under stress and starts to remember her supressed and tormented past, but Oates fails to distinguish reality from dream or psychotic episode, and leaves the reader as confuse ...more
Sian Lile-Pastore
I couldn't decide it it was a four or five star... but have gone for five.... maybe it's a 4.5er though.
I really love Joyce Carol Oates's books, she is a genius and writes incredibly diverse and believable characters. I really love her writing style as well (although I can see that it would not be to everyones taste)the way she uses italics and repetition - in Mudwoman the word 'brackish' comes up over and over again.

Mudwoman is about a woman who becomes president of a university and how her tra
Oh how I hate to say I did not like this. I struggled from the first page to the last, often skimming to get through. I so wanted to like it as Oates is such a recommended author. This was my first novel of hers and while I was prepared for something "different", I was not ready to find this a book that I wanted to put away, and yet I kept on. While the writing at times was beautifully descriptive, I found so much repetative narration that did nothing for me. I felt I was being led to something ...more
Laura Planton
A girl abandoned from her mother is rescued from the mud she is left to die in. She survives, goes to a foster home and then is adopted by the Neukirchen's - a couple looking to replace their child who has died. The even name the mudchild the same name as their deceased child, Meredith Ruth Neukirchen, MR for short. MR becomes in later life the president of an Ivy League college. Repetitive, confusing and a plot that goes between sanity and insanity left me wondering what I was reading.
Slow ... I don't care about the protagonist "Mudwoman," president of ivy league college, her tortured past. I was tortured getting to page 100.

I've loved other books by Oates ... The Falls for example ... not this one.
This was not the kind of book I read for entertainment. Very poderous and slow to develop. I am surprised that so many people found it engrossing. I was not prepared to finish the book
What a bizarre tale Ms. Oates has spun. I believe JCO is a very gifted writer, however, this story was a little to weird for me.

The Protagonist is a highly intelligent woman who became the first female Presidnet of an ivy league University.

She may be an intellect, but she is also a social misfit and seems to be very awkward & uncomfortable around pepole. Her life begins to unravel as she remembers and focuses on her tramatic childhood in which her mother tossed her out "in the mud" to die. S
Surprisingly, I really liked this book and didn't find it at all difficult to read, as some of my friends had indicated. I loved Oates writing style, as it is so very descriptive and full of symbolism. For example, she uses various names for the protagonist to indicate different stages of her life/struggles: Jedina, Jewell, Mudgirl, Mudwoman, M.R., Meridith, Merry. These were used throughout either to be historical or to indicate when M.R. was slipping back into her past (into the "mud", so to s ...more
Every time I read a Jonathan Franzen novel I get pissed off on behalf of Anne Tyler. She covers many of the same themes that Franzen seems obsessed with. And while she is highly praised, she pales next to the rock star Franzen has become (this inequity is encapsulated by trade terms: Tyler's fiction is "domestic" while Franzen's is "literary.")

Along those lines, I am now going to cry for Oates every time Jeffery Eugenides' name is mentioned. Both authors share a faux-jaded worldview and seem to
Sunny Shore
I wouldn't recommend this book to everyone....only to people who want to read something different or are die-hard Joyce Carol Oates fans. I loved it and that's the bottom line for me because of the personal connection each person has to a particular book. Mudgirl is left as a very small child to die and we watch as she rises to become a Cornell and Harvard graduate and eventually president of an Ivy League university, after being adopted by a caring couple. You know that her psychological scars ...more
Joyce Carol Oates is amazing. I've just finished Mudwoman and I'm breathless. I've been reading her books since the'70's. How does she reinvent herself in so many way? M. R. is not Ms. Oates; yet her protagonist's voice is so strong and pleasant and charismatic that I tended to mix them up as M. R. tended to confuse herself. How many of us retell our lives; if only I had done this or that. Perhaps he was threatening me or flirting with me...or ignoring me....he wasn't there.
As I came to the last
JCO spins a fine web for this story, lures us in, goes in for the kill, but then leaves us hanging in a Poe-like fashion. Excellent craftsmanship and a brashly confident use of language. In this story as is often the case in JCO's writing, the main character rises up from the direst of circumstances to a level so high that it feels undeserved; no matter how hard she works, she can never merit the acclaim she receives. The past comes to haunt her and tears at the roots of her success. In this cas ...more
I can still feel the emotional impact of reading this book in my chest. It has given me the experience I most like -- literary excitement. Oates knows how to give you deep emotional involvement, intellectual insight, beautiful, insightful literary pictures and intriguing turns of plot. The novel provides the feeling of hurtling toward an unknown in a runaway roller coaster car. I loved it! I have to go back to read some sections to be certain that I know how this "tour de force" was accomplished ...more
Maybe if I had read the print edition, I'd have stayed with the book longer. But is was just a terrible muddle that I couldn't figure out what was happening when. I've never read one of Oates's books before though I've considered them. This book doesn't do much to recommend her as a writer. The writing is so caught up in how many words can be used to convey a thought. I didn't like the protagonist, the setting, the writing, nor the political views expressed; so I quit it!
Ms Oates' writing was lovely, poetic almost. The pace of the story was very slow and somewhat disjointed. It was difficult to tell which parts of the narrative were actual and which were part of M.R.'s breakdown. Nothing was resolved in the end, which was terribly abrupt. Two and a half stars - I enjoyed the writing but I don't feel that there was any resolution at all in any of M.R.'s personal relationships, in her own self awareness or in her career.
I really didnt care for for it...wanted to finish to see how it would was too drawn out and some parts you didnt know if it happened or was her imagination...the ending didnt seem to finish the story..
I was intrigued by the "Poe-ness" of the plot but I couldn't force myself to care about MR, her past, or her shaky future. I abandoned this around the time that Mudgirl is saved by "the King of Crows."
Tina Cipolla
This was my first Joyce Carol Oates book and I thoroughly enjoyed it. This main character, M.R., is a fascinating character. She is left for dead as a 3 year old in a mudflat and she is saved by a animal trapper. The story details the rest of her life which by almost all accounts is a fabulous success. She is adopted by parents who adore her--even though she has been adopted as a replacement for their own biological child who has died. She is a star student her entire life and goes on to an Ivy ...more
I love Joyce Carol Oates! And with the subject matter of this novel I knew (thought) I would be in for another Oates woman rising from the muck to live out a twisted adult fairy tale, and I got that. But I also was left somewhat unsatisfied. The novel begins in the usual Oates fashion, pulling you down into the depths of a deeply damaged character, who you root for, and or at the same time admire, feel empathy for, and become engrossed in their journey. But in the end I was left unsatisfied beca ...more
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Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Book Award and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction. She is also the recipient of the 2005 Prix Femina for The Falls. She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University, and she has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978. Pseudonyms ... Rosamond Smith and Laure ...more
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“Paradox: how do we know what we have failed to see because we have no language to express it, thus we cannot know that we have failed to see it.” 9 likes
“The challenge is to resist circumstances. Any idiot can be happy in a happy place, but moral courage is required to be happy in a hellhole.” 8 likes
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