Teena Maguire should not have tried to shortcut her way home that Fourth of July. Not after midnight, not through Rocky Point Park. Not the way she was dressed: tank top, denim cut-offs, high-heeled sandals. Not with her twelve-year-old daughter, Bethie. Not with packs of local guys running loose on hormones, rage, and alcohol.

rape-a-love-story
Author: Joyce Carol Oates
Publisher: Carroll & Graf
Year: 2003
Pages: 154

A victim of gang rape, left for dead in the park boathouse, the once vital and sexy Teena Maguire can now only regret that she has survived. And Bethie can barely remember a childhood uncolored by fear. For they’re not even a neighborhood away, the men that she identified for the Niagara Falls Police Department: the wide-browed, sandy-haired Pick brothers; the sneering Jimmy DeLucca; Fritz Haaber with his moustache and stubbled jaw. They’ve killed her grandmother’s longhaired orange cat.

At a relentless, compelling pace punctuated by lonely cries in the night and the whisper of terror in the afternoon, National Book Award-winner Joyce Carol Oates unfolds the story of Teena and Bethie, their assailants, and their unexpected, silent champion, a man who knows the meaning of justice. And love.


Excerpt

The hearing proceeded. There were numerous interruptions. A lawyer is basically a mouth, like a shark is a mouth attached to a long gut. The business of lawyers is to talk, to interrupt one another, and to devour one another if possible.


Book Covers


Awards

  • Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction, 2006 Longlist

Film

A feature-film called Vengeance: A Love Story has been in the works for several years, with Samuel L. Jackson originally attached, and Nicolas Cage ultimately taking the role of Dromoor.

One can only hope that the title change from Rape to Vengeance, and the media focus on the male lead are simply typical and incidental, rather than troubling indicators that the film will shift the focus away from the book’s central female characters.


 

Reviews

Eileen Battersby, Irish Times, July 9, 2005, p. 11
5 stars
So much anger, so much feeling, so many truths, Rape – a Love Story in which a traumatized child seeks a hero at a time of terror, demonstrates not only the passion, pathos and psychological intensity of this most explosive of major, if unsung, US writers, but also again showcases her fullblooded, soaring prose.

Kate Kellaway, The Observer, July 17, 2005, Review, p. 15
5 stars
Rape: A Love Story, is as powerful as anything she has produced. It is written with a contained fury, fiction in the service of polemic. Reading it, I felt a submerged evangelism at every turn. I felt she was writing for every woman who has ever feared rape or experienced it and for all the women who have seen their attackers walk free from court.

Donna Seaman, Booklist, November 1, 2003, p. 459
4 stars

Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 2003, pp. 1292-1293
4 stars
… as the focus shifts to Teena’s attackers, then back to Bethie, the story gathers headlong intensity, and the sense of doom inexorably working itself out is simultaneously distasteful, logical, and dramatically just. And Oates caps it with a devastating, finely judged two-page epilogue.

Publishers Weekly, November 24, 2003, p. 41
4 stars
When a slick Buffalo defense lawyer devastates Teena on the witness stand, Dromoor takes matters into his own hands. This is where the story truly chills, as the attackers fret about their future and Dromoor slowly exacts a cool vengeance. The love story is Bethie’s—a haunting affection born of a terrible crime. The effects linger, despite the book’s brevity.

Merle Rubin, Los Angeles Times, January 5, 2004, p. E13
4 stars
“Oates has always been a writer who writes out of her gut, her obsessions and even her confusions. In this book, she has connected with something very primal—simple, in a way, yet profound—a need that D.H. Lawrence declared in one of his poems to be deeper than sex: the need for justice, and she has shown us how that need is rooted in the urge to protect the innocent.”

Gillian Flynn, Entertainment Weekly, January 9, 2004, p. 83
4 stars
Her frank, calm writing has a dazing effect, which makes the narrative bumps even more disquieting: ”It’s a game…. They let your mother break free, run barefoot and stumbling in the grass, then catch her. Three of them like drunken dancers.” Vintage Oates, ”Rape” is disturbing, stunning, and bitter-bittersweet.

Judith Wynn, Boston Herald, January 11, 2004, Sec: The Edge, p. 45
4 stars

Andrea Simakis, Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), February 1, 2004, p. J11
4 stars

Kristin Latina, The Providence Journal (Rhode Island), February 1, 2004, p. K7
4 stars

Martin Levin, The Globe and Mail (Canada), February 7, 2004, p. D17
4 stars

Ginny Merdes, Seattle Times, July 11, 2004, p. L11
4 stars

Josh Cohen, Library Journal, January 15, 2004, p. 159
4 stars

Andrew Ervin, New York Times Book Review, January 25, 2004, p. 20
4 stars
Although the novel’s ending is abrupt, ”Rape: A Love Story” gives us Oates at her darkly enthralling best.

Lavinia Greenlaw, Daily Telegraph (London), July 9, 2005, p. 9
4 stars

Caroline Foulkes, Birmingham Post, July 16, 2005, p. 53
4 stars

David Manning, The Nelson Mail(New Zealand), July 26, 2006, p. 25
4 stars

Natasha Tripney, New Statesman, July 27, 2005
4 stars

Patrick Anderson, Washington Post Book World, December 15, 2003, p. C2
3 stars

Jonathan Derbyshire, Financial Times (London), July 23, 2005, Books, p. 32
3 stars

Maggie Gee, Sunday Times(London) July 24, 2005, p. 45
3 stars

Ruth Eglash, Jerusalem Post, April 23, 2004, p. 30
2 stars

Caroline Frazer, New York Review of Books, July 24, 2004
2 stars


image: “Baby Shoes” by donireewalker


 

Randy Souther

I'm a Reference Librarian at the University of San Francisco's Gleeson Library, and I run the Joyce Carol Oates web site, Celestial Timepiece.

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