We Were the Mulvaneys
Novels,  Repeat Authors

We Were The Mulvaneys

We Were the Mulvaneys 

We Were the Mulvaneys
We Were the Mulvaneys

We Were the Mulvaneys from author Joyce Carol Oates is my first review here at The Reading Wife! Have you read this novel? Come on in and let me tell you about it! 

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I must confess that I’ve been reading We Were the Mulvaneys about once a year since I was a sophomore in high school. It is definitely a favorite of mine. 

I’ve also made it a personal goal to read everything that Joyce Carol Oates has written. I’ve come to love her writing style and become an avid reader of hers. You can find more reviews of her books farther down in this review. I’m so glad that I started with this book, because it is the one that got me hooked, and it reads differently to me as I get older and life changes.

About We Were the Mulvaneys 

The Mulvaneys are blessed by all that makes life sweet. But something happens on Valentine’s Day, 1976—an incident that is hushed up in the town and never spoken of in the Mulvaney home—that rends the fabric of their family life…with tragic consequences. 

Years later, the youngest son attempts to piece together the fragments of the Mulvaneys’ former glory, seeking to uncover and understand the secret violation that brought about the family’s tragic downfall.

Profoundly cathartic, this extraordinary novel unfolds as if Oates, in plumbing the darkness of the human spirit, has come upon a source of light at its core. 

Moving away from the dark tone of her more recent masterpieces, Joyce Carol Oates turns the tale of a family struggling to cope with its fall from grace into a deeply moving and unforgettable account of the vigor of hope and the power of love to prevail over suffering.

Thoughts on We Were the Mulvaneys 

We Were the Mulvaneys
Carl the Sloth reading We Were the Mulvaneys

As I said earlier, I’ve been reading this book once a year for many years now. It is just that good! I really loved getting to know the characters through this book and Joyce Carol Oates. She paints a very vibrant and clear picture, that I can see in my head easily.

We Were the Mulvaneys is all about the ideal small town family in America, the white picket fence, four great children, a happy marriage, and climbing the social ladder as a small business owner.

Then one day it all comes crashing down around them. That idea family life many envy is shattered, and there is absolutely no going back to the way things were before that. Have you ever had an experience that changed your life? Where there was absolutely no going back to the way things were before it happened? If so, then you will completely understand this.

Back in the 1970s, rape and sexual assault were not often spoken about, and certainly not prosecuted in court. There was no justice for victims, and they often suffered in silence. There was no such thing as support groups or victims advocates. Living in the times I do, I am grateful that this has changed some, and women are being given voices.

So many times the perpetrator of the crimes are shielded by society and communities. Because no one wants to believe their child, parent, friend, or whatever would do such a thing. It is often the victim who has the courage to speak out that becomes the social pariah. They are often treated as the guilty party. 

Final Thoughts on We Were the Mulvaneys 

We Were the Mulvaneys
Carl the Sloth highly recommends We Were the Mulvaneys

We Were the Mulvaneys is well written for the time period it is meant to represent. It was easy to follow, and I found I wanted to get to know each character even more. That is always a sign of a good book, in my opinion. 

I would highly recommend We Were the Mulvaneys because it is an expertly written novel from Joyce Carol Oates. I’ve read many of her novels, and this is easily a favorite of mine. I love novels that tell taboo stories that aren’t talked about nearly enough, and this is one of those. 

As I have read more and more from Joyce Carol Oates, I have come to realize that is her signature style. To write and talk about taboo subjects that not all authors have the courage to do. It is something I highly respect about her.


Have you read We Were the Mulvaneys or any other novels from author Joyce Carol Oates? Let me know your thoughts in the comments! 

About the Author 

We Were the Mulvaneys
Joyce Carol Oates, author of We Were the Mulvaneys.

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.

Purchasing We Were the Mulvaneys 

If you are interested in buying the paperback version of We Were the Mulvaneys, click here.

Click here for the Kindle version.

Click here for my favorite Kindle I currently own.

More from Joyce Carol Oates

Did you enjoy this review of We Were the Mulvaneys? Need another Joyce Carol Oates book to read? Here are some of my favorites: 

  • Extenuating Circumstances
  • Evil Eye

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We Were the Mulvaneys
We Were the Mulvaneys


  • The Newbury Girl

    I had never heard of this book before but it the characters seems so complex and the contents of the book seem so fitting for the times we’re in right now. I’m going to have to check this out.

  • Nicole B.

    This is one of my favorite books too! I got it in a box lot at an auction. I read it back when my kids still took naps, and it was always hard for me to put down. I really connected with the characters and the story. Great review that I hope inspires others to read it too.

    • The Prepping Wife

      One of the things I love about Joyce Carol Oats is her character development. I can easily relate to the characters as well. I am working on reviewing a couple of her other books for my blog later down the road as well.

  • Stephanie S

    You always give the best book reviews! I’m all in when I see that you are reviewing a book. This definitely sounds like an interesting read. I hadn’t heard of this book title before. Things were so different back in that then. I honestly can’t imagine going through something like that and just not being able to go to someone, or get some type of help after a rape. It saddens me to think this was common back then. I think I will check this book out.

  • Melanie williams

    We are always looking out for a new read in our house, so we will deffo have to give this one a try for sure x

  • Laura Linklater

    Wow – what a great and throughtful reiew. Thank you for sharing. It seems a very complex book with lots of layers of different relationships even around the main awful event.

  • Sonia Seivwright

    Wow – Just Wow. Ok! Books like this make me want to speak out more. If back in the days’ women were suffering in silence in the hands of men, then who am I not to speak out? Thanks for the review.

  • Subhashish Roy

    Such a realistic book I would love to read. It touches on how individuals and families may react when the riches come to them. Great story on why we need to be balanced and down to earth at all tmes.

  • Britt K

    I’ve never heard of this book before but it sounds VERY relevant in our current times. I think it’s really important to discuss the impact that trauma like this has not only on the victim but also on the victim’s family. Both from the event itself happening but also from the ridicule and isolation that comes from revealing the events. The only way that we can empower women to speak up without fear and break away at the stigma and judgment associated with coming forward is by talking about it openly. From what I can read here, it sounds like this book is a great way to shine a light on that topic and open the conversation.

  • Kat

    This sounds like a wonderful and intricately woven story, with many different three-dimensional characters. Definitely one I’ll have to get a hold of.

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