Robin's Reviews > We Were the Mulvaneys

We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates
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it was ok
bookshelves: 2017, literary-fiction, buddy-read, american

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 vivacious red-headed wife Corinne doesn't always know what he sees in her (aside: why must red-heads always be 'vivacious' or full of energy in some way?? There has GOT to be a lazy, or temperate red head out there in the world. A show of hands??). He starts a roofing business. They buy a farm. People like them. They have a few gorgeous sons, Michael Jr and Patrick, and then a daughter, Marianne, who they love more than anything. Oh and then Judd comes along later and it is he who is sort of telling this story. Sort of, because his narrative voice comes and goes - I was a little bit confused by this, actually.

They're a rowdy, loving bunch, all adorned with nicknames ("Curly", "Pinch", "Button", "Whistle" and the like) and accompanied always by a gaggle of animals.

Then, on prom night, something horrible happens to Marianne. And the sweet little life on the farm goes to shit. But it ain't because of what happened to Marianne. It's the sick-ass parenting of good-lookin Michael and feisty Corinne that screws everything up. I mean, they couldn't have reacted in a worse possible way. They ship off their victimized daughter, they exclude her and ignore her for YEARS, leaving her to fend for herself, to find a place of belonging somewhere else, because it sure as heck wasn't at home. Michael drinks; Corinne puts her red, spiritual head in the sand. And everyone around them gets screwed up, royally.

This is the first book I've read by Joyce Carol Oates. I overlooked the "Oprah's Pick" sticker and went for it. Maybe I should have trusted my initial instinct. Because not only is the plot rather off-putting, but this book is so much longer than it needed to be. There's so much unnecessary detailing, that I found my eyes sliding over entire paragraphs pertaining to one of the family cats' habits, or yet another romanticised memory of the family, pre-incident. I wasn't interested in the cats, and I wasn't interested in romanticising a family parented by these two numbskulls.

And, that's all I gotta say about that. ;)
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Reading Progress

January 1, 2017 – Shelved
April 29, 2017 – Started Reading
April 29, 2017 –
12.0%
April 30, 2017 –
20.0%
May 2, 2017 –
33.0%
May 2, 2017 –
33.0%
May 4, 2017 –
50.0%
May 6, 2017 –
70.0%
May 6, 2017 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-18 of 18 (18 new)

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message 1: by A. (new) - added it

A. Dawes Honest review. Thanks.


Robin A. wrote: "Honest review. Thanks."

Thank you! :)


message 3: by Julie (new) - added it

Julie Never overlook the "Oprah's Pick" sticker. When you see it: run, run away!
I burst out laughing at your mention of vivacious red-heads. I had a similar moment, a few years back, while reviewing Alice Hoffman's The Dovekeepers. I couldn't stand the book, and the "feisty" but poorly written red-head was apparently supposed to distract me from the writing. I just realized that I have read one novel by Oates, The Falls. Started strong, then fell to pieces. Is this a pattern of hers?


message 4: by Robin (last edited May 07, 2017 07:35AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Robin Julie wrote: "Never overlook the "Oprah's Pick" sticker. When you see it: run, run away!
I burst out laughing at your mention of vivacious red-heads. I had a similar moment, a few years back, while reviewing Alice Hoffman's The Dovekeepers. I couldn't stand the book, and the "feisty" but poorly written red-head was apparently supposed to distract me from the writing. I just realized that I have read one novel by Oates, The Falls. Started strong, then fell to pieces. Is this a pattern of hers? "


You're RIGHT. You're RIGHT. Oprah sticker no more! Begone!
I'm not sure if this is her pattern, as this is the only one I've read by her... but maybe so. The ending of this book was incredibly saccharine and infuriated me (in case you couldn't tell). That being said, I'm still going to read Zombie because I ordered it a while back and it was recommended to me someone other than Ms. Winfrey. So I'm willing to give JCO another chance.

I'm so glad you understand about red-heads! It's like Anne Shirley paved the way for every single copper topped person in literature. I adore Anne with an E, but it's become a cliche that I feel we should be past by now, don't you?


message 5: by Margitte (new)

Margitte Wonderful review. Lolol. And I agree about the Oprah sticker. I've learnt to avoid them.


message 6: by Julie (new) - added it

Julie The greatest quality of "Anne with an E's" red hair is that she prefers that no one would mention it!


message 7: by Melanie (new)

Melanie Love the review!


message 8: by Jen (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jen It's been a while since I read this one but I recall liking it better than you but it was during my oprah fixation. Since then I don't trust her list any longer loll
Nice review


message 9: by Eve (new) - added it

Eve Kay Oates with her too long books. I hear ya! Still, I see myself giving this one a go eventually, I'm such a sucker.


Robin Margitte wrote: "Wonderful review. Lolol. And I agree about the Oprah sticker. I've learnt to avoid them."

Thanks Margitte! Glad I could make you laugh with my review :) I'll know better next time!


Robin Julie wrote: "The greatest quality of "Anne with an E's" red hair is that she prefers that no one would mention it!"

So true, bless her vivacious heart.


Robin Melanie wrote: "Love the review!"

Thank you, Melanie!


Robin Jen wrote: "It's been a while since I read this one but I recall liking it better than you but it was during my oprah fixation. Since then I don't trust her list any longer loll
Nice review"


You made me smile - "oprah fixation" :) She did get the world reading more, which is grand, but...... yeah......

Thanks, Jen!


Robin Eve wrote: "Oates with her too long books. I hear ya! Still, I see myself giving this one a go eventually, I'm such a sucker."

Well Eve, I wish you luck and maybe you will enjoy it and be less grumpy than me! I look forward to hearing your thoughts when you get to it.


message 15: by Deanna (last edited May 07, 2017 11:22PM) (new)

Deanna "There has GOT to be a lazy, or temperate red head out there in the world."

*raises hand*
though in my 30's I noticed it started to change. Not as red anymore. I have no energy....and I'm quite lazy :D

love this review :)


Robin Deanna wrote: "*raises hand*
though in my 30's I noticed it started to change. Not as red anymore. I have no energy....and I'm quite lazy :D."


:) thank you for the laugh, Deanna. Love it!


message 17: by Julie (new) - added it

Julie Deanna, Thanks for breaking the stereotype. Robin and I are both relieved. Let's leave the vivacity to Anne of Green Gables and Pippi Longstocking. They're vivacious enough for everyone.


message 18: by Deanna (new)

Deanna Julie wrote: "Deanna, Thanks for breaking the stereotype. Robin and I are both relieved. Let's leave the vivacity to Anne of Green Gables and Pippi Longstocking. They're vivacious enough for everyone."

Robin wrote: "Deanna wrote: "*raises hand*
though in my 30's I noticed it started to change. Not as red anymore. I have no energy....and I'm quite lazy :D."

:) thank you for the laugh, Deanna. Love it!"


I agree!! Though I do love Pippi's hair. It defies gravity ;-)


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