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Rape: A Love Story (Otto Penzler Books) Hardcover – November 24, 2003


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Prolific Oates (We Were the Mulvaneys; Beast; etc.) explores sexual violence and its aftermath in this taut, harrowing novella. Teena Maguire, a pretty, 30-something widow, is on her way home from a party when she is beaten, gang-raped and left for dead. She survives the attack, which her 12-year-old daughter Bethie witnesses, but as only a husk of her former self ("That pathetic woman," she thinks of herself, "they should have finished the job"). It is to Bethie, then, that the task of caring for her falls: "If Momma could sleep, that was good. It was your duty to let her sleep." Oates draws on shifting, often fragmentary points of view to tell the story of the days before and after the rape, including that of Teena's lover, Ray Casey, whose feelings have changed since the attack; Walt Pick, the father of two of the rapists; Harriet Diebenkorn, the deputy prosecutor who fails Teena in the preliminary hearing; and Bethie, whose affecting chapters are written in the second person. Redemption of a sort is offered in the form of John Dromoor, a young police officer whose concern for Teena is matched by his desire for justice. When a slick Buffalo defense lawyer devastates Teena on the witness stand, Dromoor takes matters into his own hands. This is where the story truly chills, as the attackers fret about their future and Dromoor slowly exacts a cool vengeance. The love story is Bethie's-a haunting affection born of a terrible crime. The effects linger, despite the book's brevity.
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From Booklist

Men as predators preying on girls and women have always piqued Oates' depthless imagination, and her home ground, beautiful but backward rural New York State, is often the setting for her tales of demented bloodlust. Both elements are present in their starkest and most unnerving forms in this masterfully crafted and diabolically insightful fable about the nearly fatal beating and gang rape of Teena MacGuire on the Fourth of July in the small town of Niagara Falls. Teena and her 12-year-old daughter, Bethel, are walking home from a party when the vicious attack takes place, and Bethel only narrowly escapes her mother's terrible fate. Terrorized but valiant, Bethel identifies their assailants and is determined to testify, but the townspeople close ranks behind the indicted brutes, their sons and brothers, and Teena is assaulted all over again in court. But there is one man on the case who possesses a clear and unshakable sense of justice, and his empathic connection with Bethel is at the heart of this lean and potent tale. Oates' unflinching dramatization of the insidious aftereffects of a horrific crime neatly exposes the underside of family loyalty, dissects the hatred victims attract, and reminds readers that the real power resides in the survivor, not the attacker. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Series: Otto Penzler Books
  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Carroll & Graf; First Edition edition (November 24, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786712945
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786712946
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.2 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #462,264 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Joyce Carol Oates is the author of more than 70 books, including novels, short story collections, poetry volumes, plays, essays, and criticism, including the national bestsellers We Were the Mulvaneys and Blonde. Among her many honors are the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction and the National Book Award. Oates is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University, and has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978.

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Eileen on January 18, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Joyce Carol Oates, the master of tales about hapless women victimized by men, has written a brilliant novella that brings this theme to a terrifying pinnacle in a story about rape, revenge, and love. Teena Maguire and her 12-year-old daughter Bethie are assaulted while walking home through a deserted park at night. Teena is brutally gang-raped and severely beaten while Bethie hides within hearing range of the violence. Bethie is able to identify several of the assailants. At the preliminary hearing, the defense attorney makes a fool of the deputy prosecutor and humiliates Teena on the witness stand. John Dromoor, the policeman who first arrived at the scene of the violence, takes a liking to Teena and Bethie and vows to help in any way he can to right the wrongs against them. Yes, this book is also a love story, but certainly not in the more conventional sense.
The story paints a powerful picture of the lingering after-effects of a horrible and violent crime. The friends and relatives of the rapists cast Teena as the instigator rather than the victim, and Teena becomes an outcast in her own town. She is so devastated that she wishes she had died instead of surviving the attack. Bethie finds that her identity has been irrevocably altered to that of the daughter of the woman who was gang-raped. She is now her mother's caretaker. The perpetrators are out on bail, and they continue to menace the victims. Bethie fears for her life since she was the person to identify the rapists.
This book is well written and the characters convincingly portrayed. The narration switches between the point of view of several of the main characters. The voice of Bethie is implemented in an unusual second person narrative.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By CoffeeGurl HALL OF FAME on September 22, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I admit that the title of this novella caught my attention. I have read and loved Joyce Carol Oates's short-story collections and I couldn't wait to read more of her stuff. Rape: A Love Story is one of the most thought-provoking novellas I've ever read. The darkness and poignancy of this story enthralled me from beginning to end. Teena McGuire is an attractive thirty-year-old widow and mother of a pre-teen girl. Her life is normal until the day she is gang-raped and left for dead. Now her life isn't the same as she disintegrates from the life as she'd known it. What's worse is that her twelve-year-old daughter is left to pick up the pieces. But the truly disturbing things arise when Teena is in the witness stand and in front of her attackers. There are various disarming twists throughout the story.

I have noticed that Oates likes to delve into rape and sexual abuse issues, but she has gone all out with this novella. The story is truly chilling and you don't know whether to cry or wish the characters the best. I wanted the attackers to pay for what they did more than anything -- that's an excellent indication that the story and its characters have touched you in a deep level. Oates has always made me care about the stories and characters, even in her short stories. This is one of the best books I've read this year and I cannot recommend this one enough. Rape: A Love Story is definitely going on my must-reread pile.
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36 of 41 people found the following review helpful By S. Calhoun on August 29, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I've hesitated reading RAPE: A LOVE STORY since it was published; the idea of reading about a rape never constituted pleasure reading for me with any stretch of imagination. But to tell the truth, I was also intrigued by the subtitle "A Love Story". Something was telling me that Joyce Carol Oates was going to put an eccentric spin on a terrible sequence of events and for that I wasn't disappointed.

I read this novella in one setting and it was a very difficult and painful experience for me. Oates creates a typical situation in which the victim is ruthlessly blamed for her demise while the perpetrators receive the community's sympathy. In this rendition of this tale the victim has the backing of a renegade who takes matters into his own hands to right the wrongs of the faulty criminal justice system.

In retrospect RAPE: A LOVE STORY is worth reading and to a degree necessary, not just for fans of Joyce Carol Oates but also for individuals everywhere. Recommended.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Linda Linguvic HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on July 24, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Set in working-class Niagara Falls, New York, a young widow and her 12-year old daughter decide to take a shortcut home through a wooded area after a 4th of July party. But there's a gang of drunken young men hanging out, high on meth and looking for trouble. What follows is awful. The woman is left unconscious and bleeding but her young daughter manages to escape and get help. It seems like an open and shut case. But even though most of men are arrested, the town turns on the woman. "She had it coming," is the way they look at it.

Much of the book is written from the point of view of the 12-year old girl. Our heart goes out to her as she realizes that her childhood ended on that awful night. What follows is a nightmare as her schoolmates taunt her and threaten her mother. There's a policeman, however, who was the first to discover the victims. As he watches the court system humiliate the woman and her daughter, he is enraged enough to take justice into his own hands.

This book is a mere 154 small pages and is more a novella than a novel. It packs a terrific punch though. From the very first sentence, I was captivated, and read it at a breathless pace and cringed to hear about the horrors of the justice system for rape victims. This is especially true in a small town where everybody knows everybody else and the families of the rapists turn against the victim.

Joyce Carol Oates is a prolific writer and, through the years, I have enjoyed many of her novels. I look forward to reading many more.
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