We Were the Mulvaneys

Here’s another blog post from Stan Thompson.  It’s so much fun for me to read about why someone enjoys a book. I hope Stan’s enthusiasm will encourage you to check out a copy of We Were the Mulvaneys.

 Guest Blog by Stan Thompson

I only discovered Joyce Carol Oates a few years ago and now she has become one of my very favorite authors. Although it’s not her most recent book, I have just finished We Were the Mulvaneys. The story, set in the picturesque countryside of New York State, follows the arc of the Mulvaney family. The tale begins with a depiction of the happy and virtuous life on High Point Farm where the Mulvaneys remind the reader of everything that is good about families and childhood. The family happiness and unity is shattered when one of the children falls victim to a terrible act of violence.

When we reach the heart of the story, we come to understand that the family is not just a collection of people living together in one home, but rather it is a complete living organism. When tragedy strikes one of its members, it strikes the entire family. The reader remains riveted right up to the end, desperate to know just how or if the Mulvaneys will resolve their broken lives.

 It occurs to me that I have not disclosed many details about the book, but the story is really about the human experience of being a family and Oates’ delivery couldn’t be better. Her phrasing has a certain rhythm that makes you gain momentum and fly through the story as if you were gliding down a steep hill on a bicycle. The emotional ride of We Were the Mulvaneys takes us through happiness, tragedy, struggle, justice, triumph, and ultimately happiness once again. It is such a complete portrait of the human experience, I doubt any reader can complete this book without seeing some of his or her own story within its pages.

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9 Comments

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9 responses to “We Were the Mulvaneys

  1. PDF

    What I found so wonderful about “We Were the Mulvaneys” was that it was a book about redemption.

  2. Seeing this title in my school’s library (I’m an English teacher), I remembered this blog post and decided to check it out. I had no idea what the book was about but my 11th graders are reading Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Imagine my surprise upon discovering the parallels between this book and Speak. At some point, I think I will share, with my students, this nice coincidence.

  3. Diane

    I have been reading books by Joyce Carol Oates since college. She was a recommended author for readings for my oral interpretation class. What I found so wonderful about “We Were the Mulvaneys” was that it was a book about redemption. It didn’t seem possible that this family would ever recover from the tragedy in their lives, but they did and in a very believable way.

  4. Oates’ output is astounding. I like the observation in the post that a family is like an organism. The same idea appears in my writing, and I think the idea goes even further than that–a community, too, is an organism–parts of it can’t be distressed without affecting the whole.

  5. I found Joyce Carol Oates years too late. She taught at the University of Detroit, year before I attended.

    But I found her –thanks to my 8th grade teacher, who suggested her to me (just last year) after I noted a want to read/write about the history of the neighborhood I grew up in (right next to U of D.) I began with “Them”.

    I have read all of JCO’s YALit, but have only just scratched the surface of her adult works, thanks, I think I will read “Mulvaneys” next!

  6. nancy pearl

    I second all of Joyce’s remarks re this blog post. Nancy

  7. linda

    I heard yyou this am en route to olympia this morning about favorite books this summer. Noone mentioned the “lonely polygamist”. It was such a great read, especially if you truly understand the social dynamics of polygamy.

  8. Thank you Stan! I love the way you illuminate the theme and emotional experience provided by this book rather than restating the details of the plot. And your use of a metaphor — “gliding down a steep hill on a bicycle”– to describe the momentum of the story is simply wonderful. I’ll definitely be adding We Were the Mulvaneys to my reading list.

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