Saturday, July 08, 2006

Book Review: We Were the Mulvaneys

We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates

I haven't been this inspired by a book in a long time. Oates creates such a complete world for her characters, one into which I feel I could easily step. There was a lot to learn from how she lay all of this out for the reader and then placed these intricate and individual people into this scene. It might be, though, that I am hypercritical of novels right now because I'm aiming at composing my own. So many I've read recently seem to fall into trouble in the end. Oates sets things up beautifully and then besets trouble on the Mulvaneys. Things certainly fall apart for them and there doesn't seem much of a way out for them. Indeed, Oates lets them each fall about as far as possible. This nadir happens with only fifty pages left to read. An event reunites the family, and an epilogue shows us them together many years later. The problem: there is no reconciliation. No recounting of the lessons learned. They somehow come out of this darkness with little effort and stumble right into the daylight as the novel closes. I really did enjoy this book, and that's what made the ending so unsatisfying.

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