We Were The Mulvaneys 
By: Joyce Carol Oates

I recently read this book because of a recommendation by Eric at The Lonesome Reader blog here on Google! I am so incredibly happy that I read this book and gave his favorite author a try; she has blown me away with the quality of her books and my enjoyment of them! I whole heartedly recommend that everyone tries to read this book or at least try one of her countless novels.

"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.The Mulvaneys of High Point Farm in Mt. Ephraim, New York, are a large and fortunate clan, blessed with good looks, abundant charisma, and boundless promise. But over the twenty-five year span of this ambitious novel, the Mulvaneys will slide, almost imperceptibly at first, from the pinnacle of happiness, transformed by the vagaries of fate into a scattered collection of lost and lonely souls.It is the youngest son, Judd, now an adult, who attempts to piece together the fragments of the Mulvaneys' former glory, seeking to uncover and understand the secret violation that occasioned the family's tragic downfall. Each of the Mulvaneys endures some form of exile- physical or spiritual - but in the end they find a way to bridge the chasms that have opened up among them, reuniting in the spirit of love and healing.Profoundly cathartic, Oates' acclaimed novel unfolds as if, in the darkness of the human spirit, she has come upon a source of light at its core. Rarely has a writer made such a startling and inspiring statement about the value of hope and compassion." (

General Thoughts: 
  • This book is set in a small town called Mt.Ephraim NY USA, which is in central NY only hours from where I am attending University! I was therefore able to envision the setting with vivid images and concrete sounds/smells.
  • Small town life is captured utterly beautifully, without the often idealistic film that can be cast across small towns like the one I grew up in. 
  • The tragic moments had a meaning to the reader aside from sheer shock factor as is often seen in modern literature, which is something I found to make the book more realistic and heart wrenching. 
  • The book is a slow moving and meandering plot that I really enjoyed consuming the whole way through. 
  • I have a ridiculously close connection to the character Patrick in this novel, he is a: 
    • Biology student, that is interested in research positions.
    • Graduated within the top two of his High School Class.
    • He is introverted
    • He has an aloof personality which I can both relate to and envy both in the same breath.
    • Overall Patrick has the spirit of a grown man while growing up as a middle child in his family home, every aspect of his character encompasses some portion of my life her in rural Vermont.
  • Patrick: As mentioned above, I am one in the same as Patrick. I related to this character the most out of them all, and found what he had to say about the events happening to his family to be engrossing and raw!
  • Judd: Judd is the narrator of the story so we as readers hear many inner monolog pieces from him that we would otherwise not receive. I enjoyed Judd as a character, however I felt he was more of a background noise than a main focus. This feeling of outcast nature towards Judd may have been intentional by Oates to get the reader to think about what life is like to be the youngest child and watch all that you love grow up and change in front of your eyes. 
  • Marianne: Marianne is a very troubled young character who is my second favorite character in this novel and is the lynch pin to the entire story. Her story arc from the damaged and ill thought of girl who we see at the beginning to the full and exuberant human being at the end truly has encapsulated the human spirit and drive to live. Her love for family and animals is both strong and very relatable to someone like myself who has always owned pets.
  • Corrine: Corrine is the mother of the Mulvaney clan and has to hold them all together when times get tough. She has the fierce drive of a mother protecting her babies in times of need. She seems to be Oates' muse for exploring the endurance and downward spiral a mother can take when faced with horrific family events. 
  • If you are in the mood to see a sweeping family epic set in rural America: Read this book. 
  • If you want to love characters in the deepest way possible: read this book. 
  • If you at all want to begin with Joyce Carol Oates this is a very unique and heart-moving place to begin.
I know that you all must get tired of me saying this in nearly every review, however this book is up there rivaling Swamplandia for my #1 book of the year! I cannot wait to read more from Oates in the future. Thank you once again Eric for relentlessly mentioning and featuring this wonderful women on your blog, and grinding me down to try her works!

Rating: 5/5 stars!

Happy Reading!
I would love for each and everyone of you to read Joyce Carol Oates and in particular give this wonderfully heart wrenching novel a shot!

There will be a Photoshoot post going live on Friday this week, along with a video review on my YouTube Channel!


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