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3.27  ·  Rating details ·  3,349 ratings  ·  572 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 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)

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Average rating 3.27  · 
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 ·  3,349 ratings  ·  572 reviews

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May 11, 2012 rated it did not like it
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
Gary  the Bookworm
Mar 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos This 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 y ...more
Lolly K Dandeneau
Feb 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
“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.”
Otchen Makai
Had been curious about this author for quite a long time.
Now, after finally having read one of her books, can finally understand what has drawn countless people to her writings for so long. Amazing.
She has an incredible flow to her writing.
It is such a smooth journey that you feel like you’re there.
This story had me thinking it was going one direction and then it abruptly would go another one, several times over.
Fantastic story, memorable characters that come alive from the moment you open t
May 07, 2012 rated it liked it

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 seem
Sep 08, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
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.
Oct 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Connie Cox
May 25, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
Monica Casper
May 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I wonder why everyone who commented on this page appears to be female. Don't men read JCO too (they should) ...more
Apr 18, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: gave-up-on
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.
Mar 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 07, 2012 rated it liked it
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. She w
Linda Flood
Oct 17, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Larry Bassett
Jan 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Sometimes with JCO you can get in over your head. I experience this book as an audible performance and it was excellent. It begins as a story of mud girl and then about mud woman. As a switch back-and-forth it took me a while to realize that this was the same person. Eventually we have the story of a woman from the age of about five until about 45. There is serious intensity and insanity. There is much description of events and thoughts.
Jun 18, 2012 rated it did not like it
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. ...more
May 29, 2012 rated it did not like it
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
Apr 08, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Feb 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Hovering between 3.5-4. This had me engrossed for the most part, but there are some unnecessary dream sections, and the ending is strange and abrupt.
"You don't have to understand why anything that has happened to you has happened nor do you even have to understand what it is that has happened. You have only to live with the remains."

At the very end of this complex novel, M. R. makes this declaration to herself. I agree with the statement ("buck up and move on") and live by it myself in many ways, but it seemed like it would have been a better opener to this book. After Oates tells her story, M. R. is much less well adjusted than she was at t
Apr 18, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2012, audiobooks
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
May 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Laura Planton
Jun 21, 2012 rated it it was ok
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. ...more
Apr 02, 2012 rated it did not like it
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." ...more
May 29, 2012 rated it did not like it
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..
Toria (Please call me Leo)
Dec 25, 2020 rated it did not like it
Didn't like they way it was written, felt overdone and I didn't get invested in the stories of characters. Felt like this kept on babling on and on. I have enjoyed some other books by Joyce Carol Oates but this was just not my cup of the. Was just a choir to get through ...more
Mar 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Mudwoman follows two time lines, that of 'Mudgirl' a young child abandoned in a swap by here manic religious mother and what happens after she is rescued. And also 'mudwoman', M.R a successful university professor whose life is gradually falling apart, her memory taking her back to her childhood.

This book took me about 50 pages to get into but then I thoroughly enjoyed it, Oates plays with times and in many places in the 'Mudwoman' section you'd be wondering what was suddenly happening only to r
Nov 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
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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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