Wednesday, March 4, 2009

We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates

From the back cover: The Mulvaneys are blessed by all that makes life sweet - a hardworking father, a loving mother, three fine sons, and a bright, pretty daughter. They are confident in their love for each other and their position in the rural community of Mt. Ephraim, New York. But something happens on Valentine's Day 1976 - an incident that is hushed up in the town and never spoken of in the Mulvaney home - that rends the fabric of their lives.

AS the years pass the secrets they keep from each other threaten to destroy them, but ultimately they bridge the chasms between them and reunite in the spirit of love and healing. Rarely has such an acclaimed writer made such a startling and inspiring statement about the value of hope and compassion.

If I had been paying any attention in the bookstore, I wouldn't have bought this one because of the author, Joyce Carol Oates. I had read another of her books (Gravedigger's Daughter) and did not like it. But I wasn't paying attention! I just saw that Oprah book club symbol and the bargain price tag and into my cart it went. I guess, in the end, I am glad.

Like almost every last one of Oprah's books, this is a sad story. Oprah apparently likes her book weepy. This tale is the disintegration of a family - the slowly eroding relationships. And the kicker is...all for nothing - it was such a waste. I really wanted revenge on the family member who caused the breach. I didn't get it in full so the ending was a bit unsatisfying.

The book moved really slowly through the first days.I listened to the audio book and I think it was 7 CD's long and the first day and night of the story took up almost three of the seven CD's. The pace was slow but it held my interest - it didn't feel like a "slow start" - but she did cover ground more quickly as the book progressed!

I don't have vivid images of either the setting or the time period - perhaps that speaks to the lack of distinguishing characteristics of the 70's/80's and the geography of upstate New York! More likely it's just that Oates expended all her energy on the relationships. And that's what I crave - I have discovered that about myself - a good story isn't about a place or a time - it's the people. This is a good story.

Joyce Carol Oates has an extensive website and she has an interview regarding the book on this page.

This is one of my books for the 2009 Audiobook Challenge - click on the button to see how it's going!


Sharon said...

I know what you mean about The Oprah books. I can only read so many sad books. I was wondering aobut this one and have it on my TBR pile. I guess it is going back a few notches.

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