Title: Rape- A Love Story
Author: Joyce Carol Oates
Number of Pages: 154
Genre: Literary Fiction
Walking home from her boyfriend’s house after a Fourth of July get-together, widower and single mother Teena McGuire is gang-raped in a boat house in front of her twelve-year-old daughter Bethie, who only manages to avoid being assaulted herself by crawling into a corner and hiding. The ‘love story’ of the provocative title seems to elude to the feelings adolescent Bethie develops for John Dromoor, the cop who finds her wandering at the side of the road after her mother is raped and beaten nearly to death and appoints himself judge, jury, and executioner for Teena’s abusers.
John Dromoor’s power junkie cop character was a little too stereotypical for my taste- do we really need a fictional law enforcement officer who is literally sexually aroused by his gun? Nonetheless, he ended up being the most interesting character in a book that was a little bit light on development of it’s central players. While the prose was frequently beautiful, some of the dialogue felt forced and almost didactic in nature. This was especially a problem with the character of the female lead deputy prosecutor, who was underdeveloped and existed only to ‘explain’ the situation to Bethie (i.e. the reader) in a way that was almost painfully stilted.
The other characters, while somewhat one-note (probably because of the brevity of the novel) definitely had potential, and the story engaged my emotions. I found myself thinking that maybe Teena’s assailants were a little too stupid, sort of the Gomer Pyles of the rapist world. They were no challenge whatsoever for John Dromoor because they had the combined intelligence of a cucumber. Out of the books I’ve read by Joyce Carol Oates, Zombie and Black Water are still my favorites by Rape: A Love Story is an improvement over A Fair Maiden, the weakest I’ve read by her so far. The best part of my day so far was finding out that Nicholas Cage directed an adaptation of this novel under the much less controversial title Vengeance: A Love Story. Good times!
Overall, I recommend this book for it’s writing, but it’s plot, dialogue, and characters sometimes leave something to be desired. I thought Bethie’s crush on John Dromoor was interesting (I guess you would call that a form of transference) and even though Dromoor was certainly very flawed and could even be considered downright twisted, it was nice to see Joyce Carol Oates write a male character who wasn’t a total irredeemable scumbag.
This book was a really quick read that still left me with certain questions when it reached it’s conclusion, but I think people who aren’t scared of the (admittedly horrific) subject matter could do a lot worse than to pick it up and give it a try. I might even watch the movie adaptation directed by and starring Nicholas Cage for a laugh. This doesn’t seem like the kind of story that would potentially make anybody crack up, but with Nicholas Cage, anything’s possible.
2 thoughts on “Book Review: Rape- A Love Story by Joyce Carol Oates”
Oh, that’s disappointing. And now I’d find it hard to read without picturing Nic Cage!
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