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.