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We Were the Mulvaneys

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  98,381 ratings  ·  3,391 reviews
The Mulvaneys of High Point Farm in Mt. Ephraim, New York, are a large and fortunate clan, blessed with good looks, abundant charisma, and boundless promise. But over the twenty-five year span of this ambitious novel, the Mulvaneys will slide, almost imperceptibly at first, from the pinnacle of happiness, transformed by the vagaries of fate into a scattered collection of l ...more
Paperback, Oprah's Book Club edition, 454 pages
Published September 1st 1997 by Plume (first published September 1996)
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Joanne Katzman I got the sense that Marianne was always loving and forgiving. She found a kind, caring husband and I expect that she is going to be okay. She's very …moreI got the sense that Marianne was always loving and forgiving. She found a kind, caring husband and I expect that she is going to be okay. She's very nurturing to animals, and I would expect her to be nurturing to her children as well. (less)

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Paul Bryant
May 02, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Glenn Sumi
May 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Okay, I finally GET Joyce Carol Oates

Thanks to Goodreads, I stuck with this novel, one of the prolific Joyce Carol Oates’s best-known and –loved books. (Hey, it’s even Oprah Book Club-approved!) Some people on here said it picked up around the 100-page mark, and – wouldn’t you know it? – they were right.

I’m glad I listened to y’all. It takes a while for the book to find its way. So many character introductions! So many coy digressions! Do we really need to know about all the family nicknames an
Apr 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
Who doesn't desire his father's death?
Fyodor Dostoevsky

<<2.5 stars>>

I want to write a few words about this novel while it's fresh on my mind instead of moving it to the back of my review line.

A first point would be that Oates could have shown what she wanted to show--the disintegration of a seemingly typical family--in three-hundred pages instead of four-hundred and fifty plus.

Besides its verbosity, the chief problem I had with the novel was that Oates kept trying to make the point that th
Helene Jeppesen
Jul 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes, when reviewing a book, it's easier to explain the experience you had while reading it - so that's what I'm going to do with "We Were the Mulvaneys".
This is a family saga that spans over several years. At first, the dense language made me feel like there was a ditch between me and the story. I had to get used to the prose, and I did so surprisingly fast; however, I still noticed the dense language every time I picked up the book, and if I was tired and just wanted to read to relax, I
May 06, 2017 rated it it was ok
The Mulvaneys: Gold Medal Winners for Bad Parenting

I've read reviews by those who think this book is "what happens when a horrible event poisons a happy family" or something similar to that. Uh uh. Not quite. This book is all that, PLUS two ferociously bad parents, who stick to their ferociously bad parenting, and learn nothing, all through their journey.

(Forgive me if this review sounds catty, I'm still kinda pissed off.)

The Mulvaneys start off well. Michael Sr is so good looking his vivaci
Oct 07, 2007 rated it it was ok
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
Mar 11, 2010 rated it it was ok
4 Reasons "We Were the Mulvaneys" was one true deep disappointment:

1) I had already given J.C.O.s my full endorsement after reading "Zombie", a speedier version of "American Psycho" and "The Tattooed Girl", also a speedy version, this time of something long and droll by the likes of Roth. This is a sad disaster. I take everything I said about her back & now I realize why some people stopped being fans altogether.

2) Speaking of speed- this "family saga", which is more like some episode in a lame,
May 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: a-the-best
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
Aug 15, 2007 rated it did not like it
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. ...more
Jun 20, 2022 marked it as to-read
i decided i wanted to read this book and then the VERY NEXT DAY found a copy of it in the VERY HOME i was in.

pretty serendipitous, no?
Oct 30, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pub-1996
One thing for sure – Oates can write. Her Twitter antics might convince you she is not a serious writer, but she is.

We Were The Mulvaneys is a juicy novel with quite a selection of antiheroes that creep up on you slowly, and you’re not sure when exactly you started hating them.

The Mulvaneys are the golden family which gets undone by their own misogyny, bigotry and weakness of character. The biggest asshat, of course, is the father, who believes that the offense done to his daughter was done to
Warning! Warning! Potential spoilers contained in this rant-filled review!

We Were the Mulvaneys is probably JCO’s most known novel. I can’t for the life of me understand why. I will be the first to tell you what a JCO enthusiast I am, yet before reading this I had never read a single novel of hers. I had read and loved her short stories as if they were written for my eyes only and I cherished them as such. I still do…more so now after having read this book.

This book is….something.

I guess a lot c
Roman Clodia
May 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's the way families are, sometimes. A thing goes wrong and no-one knows how to fix it and years pass and - no-one knows how to fix it.

** Spoilers below **

So, I've seen reviews which don't like this book because the parents don't act the way readers want, or expect them to: but y'know, that's precisely why I like JCO - she doesn't pander to society's myths about what idealised maternity or paternity should look like. As much as we might want our parents to be all-knowing and all-loving, the
Dec 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I asked one of my friends to recommend a good book to close out the year, and this is what she suggested. And just...wow! This was a superb read. The writing was impeccable and the story was riveting. I’ve always wanted to read something by Joyce Carol Oates, and I’m so glad to be able to say I finally did.

The story is about a family living on a farm on the outskirts of a small New York town, mid-1970’s. The writing immediately insinuates you into the Mulvaney family, their history, the place th
May 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Kevin Kelly
Dec 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
I was just nearly through writing a review of this, and Goodreads crashed and I lost it! We Were a Review of We Were the Mulvaneys. :-(
Jan 10, 2008 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club
This is a story of how one terrible incident poisons and disintegrates a 'perfect' family.

The Mulvaneys live on a farm in New York - there is Mum, Dad, Mike (eldest son), Patrick, Marianne, Judd (youngest son) and a myriad of animals.

The story is told by Judd (he is now a journalist) over 25 years but it is not his personal story - more an exploration of each of the members of his family.

Be warned - this is not an easy read!

The subject matter is emotionally antagonistic and it is PAINFULLY slow
Aug 24, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Joyce Carol Oates is amazingly prolific and reading this book I can see how she manages it. If you just hack it out without a pause to consider your word choice, your sentence structure, whether your characters are behaving with integrity, going back to edit or improve I imagine it is easy to churn them out. In fact she herself says this in the notes to the book where she claims this book just wrote itself. If so the book could be given a few lessons on what constitutes a sentence. Oates is a bi ...more
Mar 30, 2012 rated it did not like it
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
Nov 13, 2014 rated it did not like it
I read this book probably 10 years ago, but it has stayed with me. That's because this book made me strongly feel quite a range of negative emotions. I finished this book on a plane, and I was so burnt up after reading it that I left it on my seat in a huff. (In fact this is the book I refer to in this review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...). I thought this book was way too long, especially the first few hundred pages. It took forever to get the story off the ground. It was painfully s ...more
Jessica J.
Jul 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
2.5 stars.
This has only been my third contemporary author on my To-Read list this year and, unfortunately, my first literary disappointment as well. With regard to contemporary authors, I have admittedly been spoiled in 2016 by Alan Hollinghurt’s and Colm Toibin’s skilled penmanship, and it might have been a mistake to expect Joyce Carol Oates’ prose to be in the same league with these great British and Irish authors. Alas, my first Oates was not my cup of tea: Overwritten, with a storyline all
May 07, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: oprah-picks
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
Julie Harding
Mar 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars

You might know the Mulvaneys. You might be them, or want to be them. They might live next door, or across town. Their son might date your daughter, or you might have a beer with Michael Mulvaney, Sr., sometimes. The fact is that we all know the Mulvaneys. They are all of us, in every town.

But the Mulvaneys are also our worst nightmare. Our greatest fear realized, made flesh and bone. They are the worst thing that could happen, mostly because it could happen. And you know it.

The Mulvane
Liza Miller
Mar 29, 2015 rated it liked it
Oh you guys, where to begin with this one? JCO really brings out the feels on this one, and a lot of them are really unpleasant.

Some of them, especially in the beginning, are wonderful. I fell in love with the Mulvaneys early on. They're charming and seemingly perfect, a mix of jokesters (Mike, Jr.), needling nerds (Pinch!) and batty kooks (I wanted Corinne to adopt me the first time I read this). Even Marianne, the devout, kind (and, yes, kind of sanctimonious) daughter, is the kind of girl yo
Dec 14, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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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