We Were the Mulvaneys We Were the Mulvaneys discussion


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Could the rape in this story been handled better by Marianne's family?

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Rrshively It is too bad that Marianne's mother and brother Patrick were so busy with their own lives that they didn't notice what was wrong on Feb. 14. I thought her father's reaction was awful and made matters so much worse. I thought the mother's early maxims about crying being silly and that we had to carry on no matter what happened greatly interfered with her healing. Why didn't her mother stick up for her more? I know the explanation in the book, but I still ask the question.


Paul Bryant I thought the novel failed precisely because of this.


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Jakki Absolutely. Talking about it would have been helpful. A perfect story about what happens to families when those family secrets are never dicussed. I thought this was a profound book


Susan Jakki wrote: "Absolutely. Talking about it would have been helpful. A perfect story about what happens to families when those family secrets are never dicussed. I thought this was a profound book"

My book club read this and the greatest amount of anger was at the mother. She abandoned her daughter in a time of emotional/physical trauma. We understood the father's desire to get back at whoever damaged his daughter, but did not get the whole not being able to stand being around her, as though the whole episode were her fault. I suppose all families might qualify as disfunctional, but this one seemed to be messed up at all levels. The father an alcoholic, the mother cleaving to him at the expense of her children, the weakest and most vulnerable member banished to the hinterland. Yet with all that said, b/c Oates did such a good job developing the characters and making you feel all those emotions, I gave it a thumbs up. My group of 15 or so people were about evenly divided on it, though.


Jakki Discussed it at my book club today. Several had not read it before. I donated it to church library in hopes more will read it.


Regina If the rape was handled in a different way, there would not have been a story. I loved this book. It is just a family who every member just behaves badly, but so well written. I also think that so much of it was the era of time. Things of sexual nature were just pushed under the rug thinking that it will go away if it is not ever mentioned again.


Susan Regina wrote: "If the rape was handled in a different way, there would not have been a story. I loved this book. It is just a family who every member just behaves badly, but so well written. I also think that ..."

That was sort of what we concluded as well. Even today many people 'blame the victim' and women who suffer through rape are reticent to talk about it with anyone. Compound that with being shut out by everyone you love and there's nothing left. We also talked about the role of religion in shaping the outcome for Marianne and her mother.


Nicole Duh!That's the point of the story! Everything about that disfunctional family is reflected in their reaction or lack of reaction to the rape. This is one of my favorite books by JCO. BTW. Did anyone see the movie? (It's pretty old.) I thought it was fantastic. Blythe Danner was brilliant as was Beau Bridges who played the father.


message 11: by Lizz (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lizz Witt I loved this book. Every person has a different reaction to a traumatic event, whether it happens directly to us or to somebody close to us. I feel this book illustrated those different reactions brilliantly. It is frustrating and agonizing to read and wish the mother had a better reaction however her reaction is quite "normal" under the circumstances.


message 12: by Tina (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tina Great book. The dysfunctional qualities of everyone involved was written so well. I picked this book up and didn't put it down.

I'm also drawn to the setting. The basis for the town they were from, was based on the town in upstate NY my grandparents lived. So I was drawn into the setting as well.


message 13: by Kevin (last edited Dec 15, 2011 01:18PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kevin Kelly Yes, indeed, Tina. Oates leads you to look a family of human beings, warts and beauty combined.

As for the question of whether the family "could have" handled the rape of Marianne better, obviously, yes. Anything "could have" happened.

But if the question is Was this particular family capable of handling the rape better, the answer is no.


Emily Yes, it could have been handled better. In fact, the way it was handled seemed implausible to me to the extent that I had to force myself to finish reading the book (as I get older, plausibility has become more important to me in fiction). I realize that the family's botched handling of the rape may have been part of the "warts and all" portrayal by Oates (as Kevin suggests), but for me, it was almost a deal-breaker, in the same way that Philip Roth's "American Pastoral" lost me because I couldn't quite buy the idea of the main character having a daughter who was a radical terrorist.


Polly Rosenstein I thought the family was despicable. They lived a life of lies, and they couldn't face the reality of their own motives. I couldn't put the book down. However, I found the ending a little implausible.


message 16: by David (new) - rated it 1 star

David Freas This book is about an ideal family that falls totally apart the moment their life is no longer ideal. Their inability to cope as a family or as individuals with the rape and its aftermath means either their prior 'perfect' life was a lie--all show, no substance--or they were all too flat-out stupid to figure out something was wrong and do something about it.
For such a perfect family to go completely to pieces destroyed any possibility of me believing any of this book.


Cathy I read this book when it first came out, long before Oprah had it in her book club. Yesterday the movie was on Lifetime. I didn't watch it because I think I'd like to read the book again.


Megan Jones Obviously the family handled this terribly as many families do in such a crisis. But I couldn't give this book more stars for many reasons, but one, because I believe it was never explained or discussed why the mother blindly conformed to the father's wishes of sending Maryanne away. Oates developed the father to be such a great all around guy. And I know in reality, such a tragedy can change people. But I think Oates could have explained what happened between the mother and father or how the mother felt about the father's tragic decision to block Maryanne out of their lives. Just a thought....


Kristen Martin Well if they handled the situation "better", there would have been no story. The situation was awful, there was no healing for Maryanne in her family. Not to mention the rape was tragic, but the response and cold shoulder treatment from her family made it even more traumtic. I applaude her for handling it as well as she did, she stayed humble, prayed and tried to get out of herself. Her love for others around her and animals was something to be proud of. In a sense, I am sure that is what helped her cope.

The fact that the family rarely addressed this matter and didnt process it (social worker in me) left a type of uneasiness. Like there was an elaphant in the room and no one wanted to discuss it. Except that elaphant was their sister or daughter.


message 20: by Kate (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kate Diffley It was handled terribly.


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