Friday, March 28, 2008

Is this woman capable of doing wrong? I don't think so.

Rape: A Love Story
Joyce Carol Oates

You have to hand it to Joyce Carol Oates: homegirl knows how to pick an attention-grabbing title. In fact, as soon as I read the title, I immediately knew I wanted to read the book, without even reading anything else about it. Of course, it's Joyce Carol Oates. Enough said.

This novel reads more like a short story, and I finished it in a single afternoon. And while the storyline is fascinating, it’s her method of telling the story that really wowed me. The novel is broken up into small, bite-size chapters, some only as long as a paragraph. This succinctness allows the reader to feel the action as small punches to the gut, much like Teena Maguire must have felt when she was gang raped on the Fourth of July.

The novel begins, in a nod to Oates' brilliant technique, with both the rape AND the neighborhood’s reaction to it, a reaction that is tantamount to “Bitch deserved it.” After all, Teena was a single mother. She was dressed provocatively. She was walking home alone with her daughter after midnight, after leaving a party, when she should have been at home. She took a shortcut through a park. Obviously, she was asking for it.

This mentality is strengthened by the community’s resolve that the perpetrators are good boys; enter a shark of a lawyer who really twists the events of that night, and it’s no wonder that Teena, left for dead and horribly ruined, wishes she were dead. Affected even more by these events is Bethie, Teena's daughter, witness to the rape and just as battered, although physically speaking, relatively unharmed. Even Bethie is powerless to help her mother, but it’s not for lack of trying. But, really, what can a twelve-year-old do in the face of such ruthless malevolence?

Someone, however, can help, someone who is not so connected to Teena and Bethie. This unlikely savior watches as the town turns its back on these victims and champions the perpetrators instead. He vows to avenge this crime, and he’s in a position to do it. The story unwinds just as relentlessly as the opening pages, and you'll find that you won't be able to rest until the last page has turned.

Rape: A Love Story delivers a look into the mentality of those capable of wreaking such harm on another person, and it examines the depths of suffering one can endure. It looks into the hearts of those who turn their backs on those in need, and those who must do something to help. Everyone has a voice in this story, even those we wish to silence. We learn that pain is unavoidable. Release from this pain is also possible - but only if we are willing to help one another.

In a nutshell: Um, Ms. Oates, since we live like 2 minutes from one another, maybe we can do lunch sometime? Hit up that little Thai place, you know the one - my treat, I swear! Wait, you don't like Thai? Doesn't matter - I'll cook! On second thought, I better not. Okay, you pick the place. You’re the best! Call me!

Bibliolatry Scale: 5.5 out of 6 stars


raych said...

I've never read any JCO (Them is languishing on my shelf as we speak) but you've sold me. This sounds so gripping and awful that I need to pick it up.

COS Productions said...

I am on my way to Amazon right now to buy the book!
Let us know if you get to do lunch with the author! lol


Sam Houston said...

I really admire this book and, like you, it was the title that first got my attention. I'm a huge fan of Joyce Carol Oates, though, and I would have gotten around to it sooner or later, no matter the title.

Great review...

Linda Jacobs said...

You've made this book sound like a must for me. Great style! I'm new to the world of reading blogs and am having fun surfing. I'm definitely going to slow down and scroll through more of your posts!

trish said...

Man! How is it possible that I've missed this book? I've added it to my bookmooch list now. And it'll be perfect for my Novella Challenge!

Kathy said...

Great review of this book!
I will definately see about getting me a copy of this book. I followed a link over from Library Thing. Great book review blog. =)

oakling said...

Thank you for explaining this book! I keep hearing people mention it and waiting to find out why it is not a horrible, horrible book with that title. Because it seems like it could either go SUPER AWESOME or BAD BAD IDEA. And I didn't know it was Joyce Carol Oates :) I can't wait to read it now!