An Oprah Book Club® selection
A New York Times Notable Book
The Mulvaneys are blessed by all that makes life sweet. 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 family life...with tragic consequences. Years later, the youngest son attempts to piece together the fragments of the Mulvaneys’ former glory, seeking to uncover and understand the secret violation that brought about the family’s tragic downfall.
Profoundly cathartic, this extraordinary novel unfolds as if Oates, in plumbing the darkness of the human spirit, has come upon a source of light at its core. Moving away from the dark tone of her more recent masterpieces, Joyce Carol Oates turns the tale of a family struggling to cope with its fall from grace into a deeply moving and unforgettable account of the vigor of hope and the power of love to prevail over suffering.
“It’s the novel closest to my heart....I’m deeply moved that Oprah Winfrey has selected this novel for Oprah’s Book Club, a family novel presented to Oprah’s vast American family.”—Joyce Carol Oates
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Joyce Carol Oates’ stunning novel—about the happy rise and tragic fall of the enviable all-American Mulvaney family—covers a stunning range of emotional hues, including her signature darkness. Oates is also a master of shifting points of view, and her richly drawn characters shine revealing light on American life in the 20th century. The story revolves around a prom-night incident involving the beautiful, devout, well-loved Marianne Mulvaney, which sets off a chain reaction that tears the family apart and seems to destroy the goodness in her father. But in Oates’ universe, the good and bad in all of us get equal treatment. We Were the Mulvaneys reveals both the power of love and family and the volatility of pride and tribalism. It’s an absorbing, breathtaking read that examines what we think of as our common virtues.
Elegiac and urgent in tone, Oates's wrenching 26th novel (after Zombie) is a profound and darkly realistic chronicle of one family's hubristic heyday and its fall from grace. The wealthy, socially elite Mulvaneys live on historic High Point Farm, near the small upstate town of Mt. Ephraim, N.Y. Before the act of violence that forever destroys it, an idyllic incandescence bathes life on the farm. Hard-working and proud, Michael Mulvaney owns a successful roofing company. His wife, Corinne, who makes a halfhearted attempt at running an antique business, adores her husband and four children, feeling "privileged by God." Narrator Judd looks up to his older brothers, athletic Mike Jr. ("Mule") and intellectual Patrick ("Pinch"), and his sister, radiant Marianne, a popular cheerleader who is 17 in 1976 when she is raped by a classmate after a prom. Though the incident is hushed up, everyone in the family becomes a casualty. Guilty and shamed by his reaction to his daughter's defilement, Mike Sr. can't bear to look at Marianne, and she is banished from her home, sent to live with a distant relative. The family begins to disintegrate. Mike loses his business and, later, the homestead. The boys and Corinne register their frustration and sadness in different, destructive ways. Valiant, tainted Marianne runs from love and commitment. More than a decade later, there is a surprising denouement, in which Oates accommodates a guardedly optimistic vision of the future. Each family member is complexly rendered and seen against the background of social and cultural conditioning. As with much of Oates's work, the prose is sometimes prolix, but the very rush of narrative, in which flashbacks capture the same urgency of tone as the present, gives this moving tale its emotional power. 75,000 first printing; author tour.
Customer ReviewsSee All
This book was very suspenseful. I kept wondering what was to follow. I am a 21 yr old man and it made me tear. A very good read readers!
I want to die.
We Were the Mulvaneys
The story seem to unravel about midway through the book. I didn't feel like the author even knew where the story was headed at times. Upon finishing the book, I felt a little cheated.