Book #54

Rape: a Love Story by Joyce Carol Oates

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 in a tank top, denim cutoffs, and high-heeled sandals. Not with her twelve-year-old daughter Bethie. Not with packs of local guys running loose on hormones, rage, and alcohol. A victim of gang rape, left for dead in the park boathouse, the once vivacious Teena can now only regret that she has survived. 

A crippling disappointment. I expected this book to be so much more than what it was; I expected to be disgusted, up in arms, uncomfortable, and enthralled. Instead, the detached narration and underdeveloped characters gave me a complete lack of passion for the unfolding events and plunged me into utter boredom. 

Oates gives us an incomprehensible crime, patronised with stereotypical characters, predictable plotlines, and a failure to justify the title of the novel by underplaying the entire thread. Although there truly were some disturbing and painful scenes, these were dulled by the rest of the novel. 

I was particularly disappointed in the way Oates portrayed her female characters; each of them inept, bland, and with no other person in the world to turn to. Even her female prosecutor was given to us as totally useless, with Teena herself being shown as nothing but a victim. I'd like to think there was method in this madness, but I certainly couldn't see it, and I was left feeling completely infuriated. A touch of back-story and development here would have worked wonders.

Yes, it's incredibly open to interpretation, but my interpretation of this novel leaves it lacking power. We need to write about female suffering the same way it's experienced in reality: hard-hitting, life-changing, impactful grit. There's so much education to be done in understanding these types of crime, and what their survivors experience. This piece of piss does nothing for us.