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Mulvaneys deserves more attention and prominence in Oates' oeuvre. It didn't receive a National Book Award (like here 1969 work, them) or a Pulitzer nomination (like Black Water, What I Lived For, and Blonde). It's notoriety came from selection by the Oprah book club and a movie adaptation.
But Mulvaneys is excellent! Oates crafts perceptibly realistic characters, who are as emotionally complicated and psychologically baffling as any real human being. The novel also interestingly forays into religious and epistemological issues; in fact, Oates depicts the religious Maryanne heroically, though she cannot defend her faith against her brother's deep-seeded naturalism.
Oates impinges stirring literary conceits upon this simple story, which she admits is indebted to Shakespeare’s King Lear. The narration, generally linear, features vivid flashbacks. The structure works compellingly well, as the flashbacks provide foil for the proceedings of the novel.
The narration is quite good with one exception. Shina often hints at a rural Southern accent, but the work is set in rural upstate New York. This was distracting through the first third of the audiobook.
Otherwise, it's a great listen!
13 of 15 people found this review helpful
Twenty-two hours of nothing. This is a story of a superficial family, growing up in a small town and constantly worrying about appearances. Mrs. Mulvaney was moving about with her head in the clouds. She seemed more concerned about the farm animals than she was about her husband and children. She chose to hide behind her faith in God with the expectation that her family would take care of themselves. Not having parents to guide her, the daughter was left floundering and on her own. The father was no better with parenting skills. He focused on having a successful business and living a superficial life, even to the point of joining a country club where he was only tolerated. One act of violence, eventually forced this family to realize that they had no foundation to keep them strong.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful