We Were the Mulvaneys

In a family, what isn’t spoken is what you listen for. But the noise of a family is to drown it out.

— from We Were the Mulvaneys, Joyce Carol Oates, 1996

I read this book twice, both quite some time ago. I have a history with Joyce Carol Oates’ writing. It is only a history. I’ve given up on her current work. The reason I thought about this book again is because I was surprised to see it in a church library (not mine; it wouldn’t be in mine). Joyce Carol Oates can be very dark, delving deep into atrocities such as murder and rape. This book, We Were the Mulvaneys, is not free of this darkness. However, it is tempered by the story of a family. When there is a family involved, an honest-to-goodness family, struggling to remain a family, something shines out of whatever darkness might otherwise exist. Because families mean love, long-suffering, patience, and all the other fruits of the Spirit. God meant us to be families. Too many stories, both real and fictional, portray broken families as if that is the way they inevitably become. We Were the Mulvaneys shows very vividly that it is difficult and complicated to be part of a family. But it also shows how valuable a family is, and how precious family loyalty can be.

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2 thoughts on “We Were the Mulvaneys”

  1. I quit reading JCO’s new stories, too, but I remember reading this one a few years ago and love your beautiful perspective on it. She may often be dark, but she can get right to the glimmers of goodness, too.

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