My Life as a Rat
Novels,  Repeat Authors

My Life as a Rat

My Life as a Rat  

My Life as a Rat is my latest read from one of my favorite authors, Joyce Carol Oates. I have been reading her books for many, many years. Since I was in high school, actually. Needless to say, she is one of my favorite authors.

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Have you read My Life as a Rat? Come on in and let me tell you about it! 

My Life as a Rat
My Life as a Rat

About My Life as a Rat  

Which should prevail: loyalty to family or loyalty to the truth? Is telling the truth ever a mistake and is lying for one’s family ever justified?  Can one do the right thing, but bitterly regret it?  

My Life as a Rat follows Violet Rue Kerrigan, a young woman who looks back upon her life in exile from her family following her testimony, at age twelve, concerning what she knew to be the racist murder of an African American boy by her older brothers. 

In a succession of vividly recalled episodes, Violet contemplates the circumstances of her life as the initially beloved youngest child of seven Kerrigan children who inadvertently “informs” on her brothers, setting into motion their arrests and convictions and her long estrangement. 

Arresting and poignant, My Life as a Rat traces a life cast away from parents, siblings, and the Church that forces Violet to discover her own identity, to break the powerful spell of family, and to emerge from her long banishment as a “rat” into a transformed life. 

Thoughts on My Life as a Rat 

When I read what this book was about, my first thought was relating to Violet Kerrigan. If you’ve come from a broken home or dysfunctional family, you can easily relate to her! I’ve written about narcissistic behaviors and being the villain in their stories. Which is what initially got me interested in this book. 

I couldn’t put down My Life as a Rat! 

This book is 402 pages long, and I read it in just two days. Joyce Carol Oates sucked me into this book and kept me there. She has a very talented way of doing this by making her characters both flawed and relatable. 

It is amazing to see glimpses into Violet’s transformation. She goes from being a victim to a survivor, which is something I’ve had to do myself, just in different circumstances. I love seeing that change, and watching her instances of self-confidence. It is both relatable and inspiring. I found myself rooting for Violet in those moments and wanting to see more of them. 

It is sad too

One of the saddest things about this book is how Violet desperately wants forgiveness from her family and to reunite with them. She has a blind hope that things will one day return to normal. It is heartbreaking to have experienced that and know instances like this change us forever and there is absolutely no way to go back to who we were before something happened. 

Once she realized there was no going back, I shed a tear for her because I knew exactly what that is like. When my best friend died, it set off a chain of events that there was absolutely no recovering from or going back to the life I once knew. That experience changed me forever. 

My Life as a Rat
My Life as a Rat


My Life as a Rat also addresses both racial and family divisions. How events can change lives and have lasting consequences. It also addresses male-entitlement and religion. 

I find it fitting that the lives of her immediate family decline after banishing her and refusing to acknowledge her existence. The old saying of ‘what goes around, comes around’ is really fitting in this sense. 

Could be a memoir 

The way My LIfe as a Rat is written feels like it could be a memoir. Like Violet isn’t the first or the last woman to experience these kinds of traumas in her life story. I think there are many women out there who will read this and relate to it in so many ways. I know I did! 

Final Thoughts on My Life as a Rat 

My Life as a Rat is absolutely worth reading! This is not a book that I will forget anytime soon, and I highly recommend it for everyone. 


Have you read My Life as a Rat? Are you a fan of Joyce Carol Oates? Can you identify with the transformation from victim to survivor? Tell me your thoughts in the comments! 

About the Author 

My Life as a Rat
My Life as a Rat author Joyce Carol Oates

Joyce Carol Oates is the author of more than 70 books, including novels, short story collections, poetry volumes, plays, essays, and criticism, including the national bestsellers We Were the Mulvaneys and Blonde. 

Among her many honors are the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction and the National Book Award. Oates is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University, and has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978.

My Life as a Rat
My Life as a Rat author Joyce Carol Oates

Purchasing My Life as a Rat

If you are interested in buying the paperback version of My Life as a Rat, click here.

Here is the hardcover version.

Here is the Audible version.

Click here for the Kindle version.

Click here for my favorite Kindle I currently own.

More From Joyce Carol Oates 

Did you enjoy my review of My Life as a Rat? Need another Joyce Carol Oates novel to read? Here are some of my favorites! 

We Were the Mulvaneys 

Black Water 

American Melancholy

The Rise of Life on Earth


48 Clues into the Disappearance of My Sister


Hazards of Time Travel

Amazon Notice 

The Reading Wife is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to, at no added cost to you.

My Life as a Rat
My Life as a Rat


  • Stella

    I think I read a few books by Joyce Carol Oates, but this review has me hooked on this particular book. Downloading a kindle sample to check it out as we speak. I am always looking for books to suck me in.

  • Britt K

    This sounds like a beautifully relatable book for so many people. I love books like this as they offer the chance to better understand our own emotions and start the healing process. It’s such a powerful way for an author to use their voice. I am going to have to add this to the list of books that I am looking forward to reading at some point in the near future.

  • Luna S

    I always love a good book that makes it hard to put down, this sounds like it would be a good read. Thanks for sharing this!

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