Kevin Kelly's Reviews > We Were the Mulvaneys

We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates
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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, character and backstory, then by all means take the journey Joyce Carol Oates is inviting you to take.

I have read others say that Oates spends too much time on minutae, the definition of which is certainly in the eye of the beholder, that she should have gotten on with the story. I disagree. Every story that she tells, every detail that she describes about High Point Farm, the animals, the smells, is essential to a full understanding of the story that follows. Reading this to pass the time as the bus rolled along, I found myself in the middle of the world she so vividly describes, and less concerned that she was wasting my precious time.

This is also a novel that can be read on many levels. Certainly it is the story of the deterioration of an American family, but it is also the story of how difficult it is to break the bonds of love once forged. It is also a story of the fragility of self-esteem solely based on how others view us, which, of course, can turn on a dime, with underscoring threads of the fundamental coldness of nature itself and the inevitibility of death. These themes are interwoven with the philosophies of Christianity, Darwinism, and the age of reason that in Oates' skilled hands seem not to compete with each other so much as to cooperate, and perhaps even complement.

If you are also looking for a book with easily identifiable heroes and villans to relate to, cheer for and boo and hiss at, then again, this is not a book for you. The characters Oates' draws are human, with all their flaws and weaknesses. Every single one of them is unpredictable, at time unfathomable, at times loveable, and at time detestable. Just like life itself.

And like life itself, there are no easy answers.

This will be a book I will find impossible to forget for quite some time, if ever.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
December 15, 2011 – Shelved

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Susan Stuber Agree totally.


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