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We Were the Mulvaneys Paperback – September 1, 1997

3.8 out of 5 stars 541 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

A happy family, the Mulvaneys. After decades of marriage, Mom and Dad are still in love--and the proud parents of a brood of youngsters that includes a star athlete, a class valedictorian, and a popular cheerleader. Home is an idyllic place called High Point Farm. And the bonds of attachment within this all-American clan do seem both deep and unconditional: "Mom paused again, drawing in her breath sharply, her eyes suffused with a special lustre, gazing upon her family one by one, with what crazy unbounded love she gazed upon us, and at such a moment my heart would contract as if this woman who was my mother had slipped her fingers inside my rib cage to contain it, as you might hold a wild, thrashing bird to comfort it."

But as we all know, Eden can't last forever. And in the hands of Joyce Carol Oates, who's chronicled just about every variety of familial dysfunction, you know the fall from grace is going to be a doozy. By the time all is said and done, a rape occurs, a daughter is exiled, much alcohol is consumed, and the farm is lost. Even to recount these events in retrospect is a trial for the Mulvaney offspring, one of whom declares: "When I say this is a hard reckoning I mean it's been like squeezing thick drops of blood from my veins." In the hands of a lesser writer, this could be the stuff of a bad television movie. But this is Oates's 26th novel, and by now she knows her material and her craft to perfection. We Were the Mulvaneys is populated with such richly observed and complex characters that we can't help but care about them, even as we wait for disaster to strike them down. --Anita Urquhart

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Praise for We Were the Mulvaneys

“It will consume you.”—The Washington Post Book World

“New testimony to Oates’s great intelligence and dead-on imaginative powers. It is a book that will break your heart, heal it, then break it again every time you think about it.”—Los Angeles Times Book Review

“What keeps us coming back to Oates Country is her uncanny gift of making the page a window, with something happening on the other side that we’d swear was like life itself.”—The New York Times Book Review

“A major achievement that stands with Oates’ finest studies of American life...the novel is a testament to the tenacious bonds of the family, the restorative power of love and capacity to endure and prevail.”—The Chicago Tribune

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3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5
541 customer ratings
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Top international reviews

M. Dowden
5.0 out of 5 stars Families
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 23, 2019
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Catherine Rotte-Murray
5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling family saga drama
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 8, 2019
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Zoe Leighton
4.0 out of 5 stars Puzzling, frustrating and beautiful, a book I’m glad to have read.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 2, 2019
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V. M. Wells
3.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing But Ultimately Frustrating
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 25, 2019
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clairerice
1.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't finish it
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 2, 2018
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Reddy
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Oates' best
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 3, 2013
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shoestopper
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read once it warmed up
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 14, 2017
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Alessandra F.
4.0 out of 5 stars What is a family, after all, except memories?
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 30, 2009
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BernieM
5.0 out of 5 stars Been searching for this...
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 29, 2018
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Julie J
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 15, 2017
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fragrens
5.0 out of 5 stars I love that this book captures so brilliantly how a happy ...
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 4, 2017
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Mrs. Jean M. Berry
4.0 out of 5 stars engrossing read
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 21, 2016
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helene hanff
5.0 out of 5 stars sad storyline but wonderfully written
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 26, 2017
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Radiojock
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard to read
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 31, 2014
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Cherry Octave
4.0 out of 5 stars Family saga
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 21, 2017
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