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Rape: A Love Story by Joyce Carol Oates


I've never read a book by Joyce Carol Oates though I did see her speak once at the National Book Festival On The Mall a few years ago. She is a very prolific writer--she writes scripts, novels, and poems, and as a person she struck me as slightly eccentric. She was a very good speaker. Recently I was reading the news on a movie website that I frequent, and I came across an article about an upcoming independent film production that was adapting Oates' novella, Rape. Samuel L. Jackson and Maria Bello are attached to star. You can easily read this book in a day, all told, I finished it in a few hours.

You were twelve at the time. Your thirteenth birthday would arrive abruptly, too soon in August, and depart mostly unheralded. For childhood belonged to before, now you had come to live in after. from page 37

Rape: A Love Story is seen through the eyes of Bethel Maguire. It is a narrative of before and after; it is the tale of the end of childhood for Bethel, and the story of lives forever altered in the aftermath of the violence of one summer night. The reader is witness to the direct victimization of two women: Bethel who is terrorized and beaten and witnesses the brutal rape and beating of her mother, Martine as well as the indirect victimization of Mrs. Kevecki, Martine's mother, with whom Martine and Bethel move in after the rape. The days immediately before and the days and months and years following the rape are recounted.

Ultimately the book is not only a portrait of the victims who eventually become survivors, but it is also a portrait of the rapists because the survivors' lives are not the only ones forever wrecked in the aftermath of this crime. The families of the perpetrators suffer also especially when the accused start mysteriously disappearing and dying after the justice system fails Martine and Bethel.

Oates' stream of consciousness writing is at once haunting and horrifying in its descriptions of the crime, its aftermath, the outrageous behavior of the perpetrators who see themselves as persecuted victims because they insist Martine was "asking for it." I highly recommend you read this book; it is available upon request from Lebanon Community Library.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie

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