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We Were the Mulvaneys
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We Were the Mulvaneys

3.64 of 5 stars 3.64  ·  rating details  ·  60,463 ratings  ·  2,065 reviews
The Mulvaneys of High Point Farm in Mount Ephraim, New York, are a large, fortunate clan, blessed with looks, charisma, and promise. But over 25 years, they scatter into lost and lonely souls. Can youngest son Judd, now an adult, find the secret violation that began the family downfall, and reunite all in a spirit of love and healing?
Paperback, Oprah's Book Club edition, 454 pages
Published September 1st 1997 by Plume (first published September 1st 1996)
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23rd out of 74 books — 1,152 voters
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81st out of 1,422 books — 1,705 voters

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Sep 20, 2010 Paul rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: novels
Six months after the death of Joyce Carol Oates a couple of her fans will visit her grave. Just underneath the keening mournful almost-Canadian wind as they stand by the graveside they will hear to their consternation a little tiptappy scratching noise. From underground. They will run run run to get the caretaker who will get the police who will get the bigger police. They'll all hear the sound. Tippytappy, scritchscratch. They'll hum and haw, and then they'll exhume the body. When they crack op...more
Oct 12, 2007 Anna rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: a very patient person.
This book is about a large family, the Mulvaneys, living all happily and blahblahblah until something terrible happens to the sole daughter. Although the book is basically about this event and the aftermath, it takes about 100 pages to actually get to the plot. The beginning of the book goes on about the Mulvaneys and how wonderful they were, describing their house and its inhabitants with a little too much detail. Most chapters had this basic formula: Narraration of some memory a character had/...more
Main Review. Warning. This review is almost a spoiler from one end to the other. I would recommend this spoiler not be read if you are considering reading this book for the first time, and particularly if you are ready to start reading quite soon (so you will have no time to forget much of what I relate in the spoiler).(view spoiler)

The next section is REALL...more
By the end of this book I was crying. I just want to start with that and get it cleared out of the way. It wasn't just a sniff and the threat of tears, I had actual tears running down my face and snot streaming out of my nose. I was leaking enough that I actually had to put the book down and go grab some tissues.

This book is very emotional, not just with how it makes the reader feel, but with how it's written. There was something unique about Oates writing that reflected a purely emotional conne...more
I really needed Joyce Carol Oates to give me a break on this one. I was still reeling from the horrible experience I had of accidentally reading part of "Zombie" but I was prepared to try to forgive her. But even though no one in this book gave anyone else an ice-pick lobotomy, it was entirely devoid of any heart, hope, or mercy. I just don't need this in my life - there's nothing about this book stylistically that elevates it above its oppressively miserable story.
Confession. I have a peculiar interest in stories that most people consider depressing. I like to observe how people fail. I enjoy watching an author destroy families. Poor decisions, personal flaws, bad luck, awful timing--I don't care what causes it, just as long as the characters unravel, sucking faster clockwise down the toilet. Let me be clear: in real life I don't wish bad things to happen. But, there's a lot of human suffering in the world, and I find that subject more interesting than fi...more
May 13, 2008 Ann rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: No one
Recommended to Ann by: No one
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
i didn't like it much. i am a big fan of her stories. it opened well, but once the event happens, which the books turns on, it falls apart and i lost interest in the characters. i think there are novels that should be long stories. its because the theme is great, but the plot, the characters, the story do not need the length of a novel to develop. and instead do not stand under the weight of that much scrutiny. i liked the movie brokeback mountain by proulx [sic], but her short story was a lot b...more
Marco Tamborrino
Ci fu un momento di silenzio tra noi. Capivo che non dovevo parlare, dire una parola. Come avessimo vissuto così, a nostro agio l'uno con l'altro, per i quattordici anni in cui ci eravamo persi.

We were the Mulvaneys è la storia della società americana che caratterizzava una certa epoca, ma prima ancora è la storia di una famiglia perfetta che subisce un colpo, la perfezione s'incrina, tocca terra, e poi si spezza. E cosa succede a una famiglia perfetta che si spezza? Tenta di ricomporsi? Può ric...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I have seen this movie on TV several times and finally found the book at the library. I was suprised at how long it was...nearly 500 pages...but I was excited to finally be reading it. In this novel, Oates tells the story of a near-perfect and dad in love, 4 loving siblings, all living in a small town on a farm filled with love and animals. Everything is going along fine until the only daughter, who is beautiful and universally loved, suffers a tragedy. From this point on, the entir...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Tina Cipolla
This is my second JCO novel and I finished this one in two sittings. I loved this novel. The main plot line is the undoing of the happy, highly functional Mulvaney family from a rural Chataugua NY area. (An area I'm very familiar with.) The story is told from the point of view of Judd, the youngest of the Mulvaney children. I was able to appreciate Judd's view of the world as I too was a younger member of a large family. I know exactly what it feels like to be missing from a huge part of the fam...more
1976. A Valentine's Day dance that goes terribly wrong. Starts with a ripped dress that ends up ripping the Mulvaney family apart.

While the writing was beautiful, and tragic all wrapped together, I found this one hard to get through and harder to pick up and finish. The book was so depressing and just seemed to keep spiraling further and further downward. I was so angry with the way that this seemingly perfect, all- American family handled the situation that tears them apart.

It wasn't until th...more
Christy Hart
I haven't read much by Oates and had heard alot about this one. Unfortunately, I didn't know the story line. But, when she started referring to "it" happening, I was extremely curious. But, the "it" is a date rape of a teenager. I almost threw the book across the room...the same feeling I had the prior week with Jodi Picoult's The Tenth Circle because it also deals with a teenage rape.

I am biased about this, I will admit. But two books in one week about rape? I finished neither book.

I will read...more
Il titolo originario in inglese mi sembra molto più conforme allo spirito del libro: “We were the Mulvaneys”.
Eravamo, quando ancora la famigghia Mulvaney era un modello alla mulino bianco, tutti insieme appassionatamente a lavorare nella fattoria, a primeggiare tra i membri della comunità locale, a collaborare, a parlottare attorno al tavolone per pranzo e cena, a sorridere e sorridersi.
L’articolo indeterminativo della traduzione italiana sembra invece voler definire i Mulvaney come una famigl...more
This is the first novel I have read my Joyce Carol Oates. She has many, and the fact that I didn't like this one won't stop me from reading others. I honestly feel like I wasted days on this book. Just simply wasted precious time. Here you have a loving couple with 3 boys and 1 girl. The girl gets raped. The father is so anguished by it that he has her sent away for years and years. The mother actually agrees to this (as a mother myself, I can't fathom this thought, especially if my child had do...more
Joy H.
Added 2/19/10.

Today I finished watching the movie adaptation of We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates via a Netflix DVD.

See my comments about the book below these comments about the movie.

"We Were the Mulvaneys" (2002)
NETFLIX DESCRIPTION: "In 1976, in the small town of St. Ephraim, N.Y., the Mulvaney clan lived what most people would consider the American Dream. But mum's the word when one year, a tragic in...more
Kevin Kelly
First an admission of how I read this book. I happened to find it in a thrift store for 99 cents, and I read it daily on my bus trip to and from work. Reading it daily, but only a few pages at a time may or may not have colored the way I view it.

If you are looking for a quick read, full of action, plot and intrigue, this is not the book for you.

But if you are looking for a writer at the top of her game, taking the time to set her story in intricate, though necessary, settings of place, plot, ch...more
This book starts off slowly, with sweeping descriptions of the landscape and the perfection of the Mulvaney family's idyllic life on their farm in upstate New York. It picks up, though, and the real story begins as the family's perfect facade is destroyed.

Essentially, this is the story of how a single event, and our reactions to it, can shape our entire lives. The lone Mulvaney daughter, Marianne, is raped following her junior prom. The attacker is never brought to justice and the shame surroun...more
This was the first Oates novel I read (as opposed to her short stories, which I liked), and it didn't do much for me. It's a very cultivated, cohesive book--never more strikingly than in the parallelism between the first and last lines, both of which echo the title--and yet something doesn't click. It's a little too cultivated and cohesive, a little artificial. The characters shade into stereotypes: Mike the jock, Patrick the bright loner, Marianne the pure-hearted and wronged daughter, and Judd...more
Aug 29, 2012 Tima rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Grandmothers
Recommended to Tima by: My Mother
Really Early Bird comment: I really strongly dislike the current narration style. Pleh!

Basic Summary: "Perfect", popular, loveable Mulvaney family is adored by their town. Until, their only daughter is date raped on prom night and the town turns on them. Only it's much snootier and more boring than it sounds. All the kids go off and implode into messes, the Father becomes a drunk (not a spoiler!). I wouldn't call the book predictable but I wouldn't call it riveting.

The narration style drove me...more
Becky Weaver
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I moved through several phases in reading this book, my first by Joyce Carol Oates. I liked it to begin with, because I could closely identify with the kinds of issues confronted by the Mulvaney kids in small town America in the 60's and 70's. As the novel progressed, I found myself increasingly unsympathetic with the characters of both parents, because I could not imagine letting things spin out of control to such a degree that it impacted the welfare of the children so severely. This feeling h...more
Jan 03, 2008 Olanma rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: someone who gives book a second chance:)
You need patience to read this..for it takes about 5 chapters to get into this book, that's the downside of it. The first couple chapters are about family this, family that but as you read on, things take a turn and its a book that you cannot put down. It took me about 5 months to get through the first couple chapters, I kept putting it away, reading other stuff, going to school..but i felt like i had to give the book a chance and once you get through all that family stuff, you'll find yourself...more
We Were the Mulvaneys is a hard read. It is so real. Their pain. Their loss. Their search for healing.

That said, it is a beautifully written book. You share the love AND pain of this family in the aftermath of a crisis. Anyone who has ever lived through their own crisis knows that your life is ever after divided into "before" and "after". We Were the Mulvaneys is mostly dealing with the after, although the author gives us just enough of the before to understand what they have lost. No one knows...more
Melissa Mann
I have a spate of reviews I will be writing months after reading certain books. I don't know if the elimination of my usual knee-jerk response panders to the positives of deeper, long-term reflection or to the negatives of misremembered reactions. Either way...

I appreciated the title of this book after I finished. Actually, I was impressed by the single verb in the title: were – the plural past tense of the verb “to be.” I never really considered the significance of this verb in English, so I t...more
The American family novel often goes as follows: first, depict a family that seems to be happy and functional; second, demonstrate how illusory this really is as hypocrisy and dysfunction are exposed, often tearing the family completely apart; and third, bring the family or at least some remnant of the family back together again for a rather upbeat ending. The assumption seems to be that however awful families might be, they are in the end our only sure refuge, a refuge that is only found after...more
Bonnie Brody
his book completely sucked me in. I had trouble putting it down and read it every spare moment.

Oates is one of the most prolific writers I know. Not only is she prolific, I have enjoyed every one of her books that I have read. However, I am able to read only two or three of her books each year because they are so tragic, dark, and brooding. This book is no exception.

The story revolves around a young woman who is raped by the son of a prominent family. Prior to this event, the family was close an...more
Marianne and her father Michael, Sr., are the pivotal characters in this novel of family life set in 1970s upstate New York. After Marianne is raped by a classmate at a Valentine's Day dance in 1976, the family literally disintegrates as they struggle to cover "it" up. Out of a need to avoid the horror of this experience, Mrs. Mulvaney sends Marianne away, making it easier for her beloved husband to avoid the truth of family life--and to avoid many other truths of family life.

Troubles, conflict...more
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Could the rape in this story been handled better by Marianne's family? 20 126 Sep 01, 2013 09:22AM  
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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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“In a family, what isn't spoken is what you listen for. But the noise of a family is to drown it out.” 17 likes
“For what are the words with which to summarize a lifetime, so much crowded confused happiness terminated by such stark slow-motion pain?” 14 likes
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