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 25-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.
©1996 The Ontario Review, Inc. (P)2001 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd
"The Mulvaneys get under our skin and demand that we pay attention." (New York Newsday)
"If you haven't read Joyce Carol Oates before, start here, and now." (The Independent)
"A grand symphonic novel.... One of Oates' finest." (San Francisco Chronicle)
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"Actions Have Consequences - A Complex Tale"
This is something of an epic tale. Despite the downward spiral of the mood of the book, the characters are so fleshed out that we are interested in all of them, and why they make the decisions that they do over the course of the book.
Though narrated by Judd, he's one of those characters who becomes sort of invisible as the narrator, even though this is his family. The main thrust of the story revolves around Marianne, whose unhappiness spirals out into the family, motivating much of the action. She, herself, in the eye of the storm, seems little aware that it is what happened to her that drives her family away. She makes for an interesting central character because she is rather opaque.
John O'May voices the characters well, but it is his own narrator's voice as Judd that is most compelling.
Less a single moment and more a series of small actions - this is the book's main theme, really, how small actions all work together to create a bigger story.
The relationships with animals and how Marianne doesn't even get told when the dog dies, the barn full of objects loaded with love and meaning, the way that Marianne becomes unrecognisable due to her diminishing affect. None of these are dramatic, but they all build together to tell the story of an undoing.
This is a long listen, but a comprehensible one. I think it's rather a morality tale, but none the worse for that, since it's not simplistic - and I think that lack of simplicity is rather the point.
"Beware the demon drink"
A happy farm family are thrown into despair when their 14 year old daughter is raped after a school dance. As the daughter is very moral and churchy, she can't honestly say who it was as the person spiked her drink, and so the culprit goes free.
Here is where I got really angry with the story, and I suppose that's the sign of a good book that is makes you think. The dad just couldn't look at the daughter anymore and she was sent away to relatives. She was pretty much miserable thereafter. I was so sorry for the daughter and that made me quite harsh in my feelings towards the dad's later downfall.
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