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We Were the Mulvaneys | [Joyce Carol Oates]

We Were the Mulvaneys

Judd is the youngest of the four Mulvaney children - three boys and a girl - on their parents’ lush farm in upstate New York. In his childhood, Judd is swept along by the sheer energy of the Mulvaneys and their wealth of beloved family stories. But now, 30 years old, Judd looks back through his memories to tell the secrets that eventually ripped apart the fabric of his storybook family.
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Publisher's Summary

Author of 27 novels, Joyce Carol Oates has won a National Book Award and the PEN/Malamud Award. She has been nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Readers around the world marvel at her ability to trace the subtle dynamics at work in the modern American family.

Judd is the youngest of the four Mulvaney children - three boys and a girl - on their parents’ lush farm in upstate New York. In his childhood, Judd is swept along by the sheer energy of the Mulvaneys and their wealth of beloved family stories. But now, 30 years old, Judd looks back through his memories to tell the secrets that eventually ripped apart the fabric of his storybook family.

Reminiscent of the works of Jane Smiley and Anne Tyler, Oates’ novel tells a tale that could be tragic, but is, instead, a ringing affirmation. Narrator Scott Shina’s performance perfectly captures the complex relationships within the Mulvaney clan.

©1996 The Ontario Review, Inc. (P)2001 Recorded Books, LLC

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.7 (152 )
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3.9 (106 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Jason United States 10-26-12
    Jason United States 10-26-12
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    "Overlooked Masterpiece"

    Mulvaneys deserves more attention and prominence in Oates' oeuvre. It didn't receive a National Book Award (like here 1969 work, them) or a Pulitzer nomination (like Black Water, What I Lived For, and Blonde). It's notoriety came from selection by the Oprah book club and a movie adaptation.

    But Mulvaneys is excellent! Oates crafts perceptibly realistic characters, who are as emotionally complicated and psychologically baffling as any real human being. The novel also interestingly forays into religious and epistemological issues; in fact, Oates depicts the religious Maryanne heroically, though she cannot defend her faith against her brother's deep-seeded naturalism.

    Oates impinges stirring literary conceits upon this simple story, which she admits is indebted to Shakespeare’s King Lear. The narration, generally linear, features vivid flashbacks. The structure works compellingly well, as the flashbacks provide foil for the proceedings of the novel.

    The narration is quite good with one exception. Shina often hints at a rural Southern accent, but the work is set in rural upstate New York. This was distracting through the first third of the audiobook.

    Otherwise, it's a great listen!

    9 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Phyllis Newark, NJ, United States 01-12-11
    Phyllis Newark, NJ, United States 01-12-11 Member Since 2008
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    "Forgot how amazing this book is!"

    I read this before, maybe 10 years ago, but forgot what a powerful story it is. So glad to have listened to it!

    9 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sandra LI New York 10-18-13
    Sandra LI New York 10-18-13 Member Since 2010

    Bookworm

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    "WE WERE THE DYSFUNCTIONALS"

    Twenty-two hours of nothing. This is a story of a superficial family, growing up in a small town and constantly worrying about appearances. Mrs. Mulvaney was moving about with her head in the clouds. She seemed more concerned about the farm animals than she was about her husband and children. She chose to hide behind her faith in God with the expectation that her family would take care of themselves. Not having parents to guide her, the daughter was left floundering and on her own. The father was no better with parenting skills. He focused on having a successful business and living a superficial life, even to the point of joining a country club where he was only tolerated. One act of violence, eventually forced this family to realize that they had no foundation to keep them strong.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Susan Morgantown, WV, United States 12-21-10
    Susan Morgantown, WV, United States 12-21-10
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    "Great Book"

    You get to know the characters very well, emotions are brought to the surface. It will make you cry & laugh!

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    karen United States 01-30-13
    karen United States 01-30-13 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "An American classic!"

    It's a good thing all audiobooks aren't as good as "We Were the Mulvaney's" -- nobody would get anything done. We'd just sit and listen. I normally stay away from Oprah books, but this one is magnificent, pure Americana. Absolutely excellent.

    I admit to having read this book at least three times, but this was my first (although certainly not my last) listen. I was a little hesitant, not wanting a less-than-stellar narration to 'ruin' it for me, but that certainly was not the case. Scott Shina does an admirable job, getting all the family members just right. Not easy -- capturing the slightly ditsy Corrine, so she doesn't sound like a maniac, but clearly as someone with a few 'issues'. Or Patrick, with his high intelligence, who needs to come off as someone who loves to know everything, but not as superior or arrogant. Even the eccentric and crusty Whittaker West, who came across exactly right, as a mensch underneath it all.

    It's a sad book, in so many ways. In the beginning, when everything is perfect in a big-family 'Sunnybrook Farm' sort of way, I find myself thinking that I'd be happy if the book just went on like this forever. But of course it doesn't. 'Something' happens to Marianne, and that changes not only the family dynamic forever, but ultimately results in ... well, read it and find out. I wouldn't spoil anyone's pleasure for a moment.

    I will say this: If you loved the book, you may want to skip the over-long author interview at the end. Usually I love those interviews -- the ones Nelson DeMille does, with many of his books, are wonderful and add so much to the book. Not this one. The fact that Oates tries to justify Michael, the father's, actions makes my skin crawl. I also fail to see the heroism she attributes to Marianne -- that wasn't saintliness, in my mind. It was insanity. We do agree on this, though: the animals -- all of them -- were characters all by themselves in this book. If I had a nickel for every tear I've shed over Muffin, I could retire.

    Whatever, it's a masterpiece. Just clear your calendar for 22 hours. It's worth it.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kate Florida USA 06-29-14
    Kate Florida USA 06-29-14 Member Since 2011

    Gracie Kate

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    "Joyce Carol Oates - a master storyteller"

    Don't delay! Download this book right away. I kept passing over this book for one reason or another, and finally decided to use a credit and listen. I wish I had done it sooner. This is added to my all time favorites list.

    Excellent narration.
    Touching story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Claudia United States 01-07-14
    Claudia United States 01-07-14 Member Since 2011

    Dark Fae

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    "Life..."
    What did you love best about We Were the Mulvaneys?

    The truth of everyday life. A fictional story so real I couldn't help but relate to every character. I found myself questioning how I would have reacted to the rape and the actions of every person affected. Life often has no reason, people don't know why they do what they do. This book follows each member of the family without trying to find out "why", we simply are challenged to accept what is. So often in life we never get the answer to the why, yet we live and react, and keep going. That is what made this book so real to me. We didn't delve into the psyche of each character; they were our neighbors, an acquaintance, a distant relative. We stood on the outside and wept for them, raged for them, laughed for them, and ultimately cheered for them. Why? Because they survived.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    There were several moments when I wanted to shout at Marianne, you are smart, you are beautiful, you do deserve the praise you are given. So broken she was by her family's actions, real honest actions, that I could empathise with her doubts.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    12-30-13
    12-30-13 Member Since 2003
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    "Slow decay of family; dad creating own catch 22s"
    Would you listen to We Were the Mulvaneys again? Why?

    Yes, instills the value of solid values, consistency, clear pragmatic thinking.


    What did you like best about this story?

    Redundant answer to redundant question. Instills the value of solid values, consistency, clear pragmatic thinking.


    Any additional comments?

    Its a bit hard watching (listening for the pedantic) the family decay due to typical but silly values and aspects of personality.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Simone St Laurent, Quebec, Canada 08-05-13
    Simone St Laurent, Quebec, Canada 08-05-13 Member Since 2006

    Join me on GoodReads too!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Too Many Tangents"

    If I have to answer yes or no to the question “did you like the book” I would answer yes, however I felt like there were too many tangents and not enough plot.

    The book is about how a family essentially disintegrates following the date-rape of the daughter… yet I’m not so convinced that they would have remained “a happy nuclear family” had the sad events not occurred.

    It felt like I was reading a bunch of short stories about a dysfunctional family and there was no point. The tangent about Muffin The Cat was so particularly pointless, it did nothing to advance the story - aside from making me sad about losing my own cat one day.

    Overall - not bad, not great… I finished feeling rather neutral.

    As for the production, I laughed out loud when suddenly I was told I was on cassette 5! HA! A bit of shotty editing there!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kate Kenwood, CA, United States 04-25-13
    Kate Kenwood, CA, United States 04-25-13 Member Since 2010
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    "Engrossing story"

    I enjoyed the story which I have read before.

    The only thing that was pretty annoying about it was that although the reader does a good job in many ways he seems to be totally unaware of how people speak in New York. He did the accents more like people from the deep South - maybe Texas.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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