Rape: A Love Story

Rape: A Love Story

3.9 11
by Joyce Carol Oates

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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…  See more details below


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. At a relentlessly compelling pace punctuated by lonely cries in the night and the whisper of terror in the afternoon, 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.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
Rape: A Love Story gives us Oates at her darkly enthralling best. — Andrew Ervin
Publishers Weekly
Prolific Oates (We Were the Mulvaneys; Beast; etc.) explores sexual violence and its aftermath in this taut, harrowing novella. Teena Maguire, a pretty, 30-something widow, is on her way home from a party when she is beaten, gang-raped and left for dead. She survives the attack, which her 12-year-old daughter Bethie witnesses, but as only a husk of her former self ("That pathetic woman," she thinks of herself, "they should have finished the job"). It is to Bethie, then, that the task of caring for her falls: "If Momma could sleep, that was good. It was your duty to let her sleep." Oates draws on shifting, often fragmentary points of view to tell the story of the days before and after the rape, including that of Teena's lover, Ray Casey, whose feelings have changed since the attack; Walt Pick, the father of two of the rapists; Harriet Diebenkorn, the deputy prosecutor who fails Teena in the preliminary hearing; and Bethie, whose affecting chapters are written in the second person. Redemption of a sort is offered in the form of John Dromoor, a young police officer whose concern for Teena is matched by his desire for justice. 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. (Jan.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Revisiting a theme from Oates's We Were the Mulvaneys, this novella examines the aftermath of a gang rape. Teena Maguire and her 12-year-old daughter, Bethie, take a shortcut through the park on their way home from a Fourth of July party. Walking through it, they are chased by a gang of young men, who savagely rape Teena in a boathouse and leave her for dead. Bethie is able to hide and run for help; the assailants are quickly identified and brought to a hearing, but their defense lawyer claims that Teena was asking for it and was even going to get paid. The narrative switches among different characters' voices, but it is Bethie's that emphasizes how that moment formed a dividing line in all their lives. The rape's impact on the perpetrators, Teena's boyfriend, and the investigating cop drive the story to a somewhat hopeful ending. Like Gabriel Garc a M rquez's Chronicle of a Death Foretold, this short work builds in suspense until the final page. Recommended.-Josh Cohen, Mid-Hudson Lib. Syst., Poughkeepsie, NY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Oates looks at a violent crime and its aftermath from multiple viewpoints: a tense novella somewhat akin to her Beasts (2002). Events spin out from the night of July 4, 1996, when, in the upstate New York city of Niagara Falls, 30-ish widow Martine "Teena" Maguire is brutalized and left for dead in a violent gang rape narrowly escaped by her adolescent daughter "Bethie." Oates uses a carefully fragmented structure, describing events leading up to the rape, the act itself, the hearing at which Teena's attackers are accused, and the fates that pursue the sociopathic "townies" charged with the crime. Interestingly, Oates does not take us inside Teena's thoughts-instead rendering those of the distraught Bethie (addressed directly, in second-person narration), Teena's lover Ray Casey, deputy prosecutor Harriet Diebenkorn, the roughhewn working-class father of two of the rapists, and-crucially-stoical police officer John Dromoor, a married man who selflessly resists his attraction to Teena, but cannot resist becoming an instrument of justice when a slick defense attorney discourages Teena from undergoing an actual trial. Rape: A Love Story must surmount its seemingly dumb title (which is precisely accurate), and such clichés as allegations that a provocatively dressed beautiful woman must have been "asking for it," Ray Casey's inability to desire Teena after she's been violated, and Dromoor's equation of guns with virility. But read on: 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, finelyjudged two-page epilogue. We've been here before, and this is flawed work, as noted. But Oates has achieved memorable successes in the short-novel form and, on balance, this is one of them.

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Da Capo Press
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5.04(w) x 7.66(h) x 0.45(d)

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A Love Story

By Joyce Carol Oates

Carroll & Graf Publishers

Copyright © 2003

Joyce Carol Oates
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-7867-1294-5

Chapter One

She Had It Coming

After she was gang-raped, kicked and beaten and left to
die on the floor of the filthy boathouse at Rocky Point Park.
After she was dragged into the boathouse by the five
drunken guys-unless there were six, or seven-and her
twelve-year-old daughter with her screaming Let us go! Don't
hurt us! Please don't hurt us!
After she'd been chased by the
guys like a pack of dogs jumping their prey, turning her
ankle, losing both her high-heeled sandals on the path
beside the lagoon. After she'd begged them to leave her
daughter alone and they'd laughed at her. After she'd made
the decision, Christ knows what she was thinking, to cross
through Rocky Point Park instead of taking the longer way
around, to home. To where she was living with her daughter
in a rented row house on Ninth Street around the corner
from her mother's brick house on Baltic Avenue. Ninth
Street was lighted and populated even at this late hour.
Rocky Point Park was mostly deserted at this late hour.
Crossing the park along the lagoon, a scrubby overgrown
path. Saving ten minutes, maybe. Thinking it wouldbe nice
to cross through the park, moonlight on the lagoon, no
matter the lagoon is scummy and littered with beer cans,
food wrappers, butts. Making that decision, a split second out
of an entire life and the life is altered forever. Along the
lagoon, past the old waterworks boarded up and covered in
graffiti for years, and the boathouse that's been broken into,
vandalized by kids. After she'd recognized their faces, might
even have smiled at them, it's Fourth of July, fireworks at the
Falls, firecrackers, car horns and whistles, the high school
baseball game, festive atmosphere. Yes she might've smiled at
them, and so she was asking for it. Might've been an edgy,
nervous smile the way you'd smile at a snarling dog, still she
smiled, that lipstick smile of Teena Maguire's, and that hair
of hers. She had it coming, she was asking for it. Guys who'd
been drifting around the park for hours looking for trouble.
Looking for some fun. Drinking beer and tossing cans into
the lagoon and all the firecrackers they had, they'd set off.
Throwing firecrackers at cars, at dogs, at swans and geese and
mallards on the lagoon sleeping with their heads neat-tucked
beneath their wings, Christ! It's hilarious to see the water-fowl
wake up fast and squawk like they're being killed and
flap their wings like crazy flying away, even the fat ones. The
All-Niagara Falls High School game went into extra innings,
now the brightly lit baseball field was darkened, bleachers
emptied, most of the crowd gone. Except these drifting packs
of guys. The youngest just kids, the oldest in their late twenties.
Neighborhood guys whose faces Teena Maguire would
know, maybe not their given names but their family names,
as the guys knew her, at least recognized her from the neighborhood
though she was older than they were, calling out
Hey! Hey there! Mmmm, good-lookin'! Hey foxy lady, whereya
After she'd smiled at them not slackening her pace.
After she'd reached for her daughter's arm like her daughter
was a small child and not twelve years old. Show us how your
titties bounce, foxy lady! Heyheyhey whereya goin'?
After she'd
gotten herself trapped. After she'd teased them. Provoked
them. Bad judgment. Must've been drinking. The way she
was dressed. The way Teena Maguire often dressed. Summer
nights, especially. Partying over on Depew Street. Party
spilling out onto the street. Loud rock music. That kind of
behavior, she had it coming. Where's her husband? Doesn't
that woman have a husband? What the hell is she doing out
alone with her twelve-year-old daughter, in Rocky Point
Park at midnight? Endangering the safety of a minor?
Endangering the morals of a minor? Look: Teena Maguire
probably was having a few beers with the guys. Smoking
dope with the guys. Maybe she was hinting at something
she'd like to be paid for? In cash, or in dope. A woman like
that, thirty-five years old and dressed like a teenager. Tank
top, denim cutoffs, shaggy bleached-blond hair frizzed
around her face. Bare legs, high-heeled sandals? Tight sexy
clothes showing her breasts, her ass, what's she expect? Midnight
of July Fourth, fireworks at the Falls ended at eleven.
Still there's partying all over the city. How much beer has
been consumed in Niagara Falls tonight by residents and visitors?
Better believe it's a lot. Like, the volume of water
rushing over the Horseshoe Falls in a minute! And there's
Teena Maguire, drunk on her feet, witnesses would report.
One of her boyfriends, guy named Casey over on Depew, a
keg party at his place spilling out into the backyard and street
and neighbors complaining, wild weird bluegrass music
Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder for hours. This Casey,
he's a welder at Niagara Pipe. He's married and has four kids.
Separated from his wife, must be Teena Maguire's doing. That
woman! What kind of a mother would drag her young
daughter with her to a drunken party and then on foot
through Rocky Point Park at that hour, what kind of poor
judgment, she's lucky it wasn't worse what happened to her,
and what happened to the girl, couldn've been a lot worse if
they'd been black men, coked-up niggers invading the park
it would've been a hell of a lot worse, the woman had to be
drunk, high on coke herself, partying since early evening and
by midnight you can figure the state she was in, how the hell
could Teena Maguire even recognize who had sex with her?
And how many?

Some of the things that would be said of your mother Teena
Maguire after she was gang-raped, kicked and beaten and left to die
on the floor of the filthy boathouse at Rocky Point Park in the early
minutes of July 5, 1996.

Rookie Cop, 1994

He wasn't that young. He didn't look young and he
didn't act young and most of the time he didn't feel young.
He was a rookie, though. A damn rookie almost thirty years
old and just out of Police Academy.

Weird a guy like him wearing a uniform! He had not the
temperament for wearing a uniform. He had not the temperament
for following orders, saluting. He had not the temperament
for listening closely to others, designated as
superiors. (His superiors? Bullshit.) Since grade school he'd
had trouble with authority. Restless under the eye of anybody
and looking to find his own private way, sullen and sly
like a chimp hiding something behind his back.

What he liked was the idea of justice, though. Putting-things-back-to-right
he liked. Such abstractions as law, good
conduct, valor in service, eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth.

The U.S. flag had a powerful effect on him sometimes.
Not if the damn thing hung down limp but if there was a
wind, not too strong a wind but a decent wind, making the
red-white-blue cloth ripple, shimmer in the sun.

Saluting that flag, he'd feel tears come into his eyes.

Also, he liked guns.

Now he was a cop and wore a gun on his hip, holstered
up, liking the familiar weight of it, like an extra appendage.
And the eyes of strangers drifting onto it. With respect.

The police service revolver he was issued, like his badge
and uniform, he liked, and other firearms he would acquire
singly, as a collector. Nothing fancy, he had not that kind of
money. A cop with his shrewd eyes open, he knew there was
money, different sources of money, available, if not immediately,
then someday. He would pursue these sources. In the
meantime, his purchases were modest. He liked handguns,
and he liked rifles. He had not (yet) much experience with
a shotgun, so he could not speak for that. (No one in his
family had been a hunter. They were city people: factory
workers, dockside workers, truckers. Dublin in the 1930s,
Buffalo/Lackawanna in the 1940s. He was mostly estranged
from them now, and the hell with them.)

A gun excited him. It was a good feeling. Quickened his
pulse so he could actually feel it. Sometimes, a tinge in the
groin. What that meant, he had little curiosity about
knowing. He was not a man to examine his own mind or
motives. Frowning into a mirror, he saw what had to be
done, and done deftly: brushing his teeth, shaving, dampening
and combing his hair, practice-smiling to flash the idea
of a smile but not to show his crazy-crooked left canine
tooth. He was a man of little vanity, though. Asked the barber
to shave his head at the back, sides, keep the rest trimmed
short so it more resembled wires than human hair, glinting
like something that might cut your fingers if you touched it.

It wasn't 100 percent true, he didn't feel young. A gun in
his hand, he felt pretty good. Cleaning a gun. Loading a gun,
aiming a gun. Firing a gun (at the firing range) and never
flinching at the noise or the recoil. Noting calmly if you'd
struck your target (heart, head) and if not, how far off you
were. And try again.

The thing about guns: you were always improving. A matter
of discipline, progress. In school he had always been uncertain
of his standing, sometimes he did all right and his teachers
praised him (such a tall snaky-lean kid with moody eyes and a
close-shut unsmiling mouth, his nervous teachers were quick
to praise him), other times he fucked up. Hit-or-miss it seemed.
Books made him uneasy, resentful. Damn words, numerals.
Like stones shoved into his mouth, too many and he'd choke.

But guns. A gun is different. The more you handle a gun,
the more expert you become. And the gun gets comfortable
with you, too.

His NFPD uniform wasn't his first. He'd enlisted in the
U.S. Army out of high school. In the army they'd taught him
to shoot. Almost he'd been selected for an elite sniper team.
But he hadn't been that good, for those guys were really
good, awesome. He'd conceded it was probably just as well.

Might've liked it too much. Killing.

They'd sent him to the Persian Gulf. Operation Desert
Shield that became Operation Desert Storm. Only just a few
years ago in his life but it seemed longer. In the life of his
country, so fast-moving and not-looking-back, the Gulf
War was nearly forgotten. He wasn't a man to look back, and
he wasn't a man of regrets. What happens, happens. He'd
returned to the States with a medal for valor under fire and
the exposed areas of his skin permanently clay-colored,
lizardy. Ever afterward his eyes would appear lighter than his
face, spook eyes some women would call them, shivering at
his touch. In the Iraqi desert he had participated in killing an
indeterminate number of human beings designated as enemies,
targets. These had been Iraqi soldiers of approximately
his age and younger. Some of them a lot younger. He had
not seen individual enemies die but he'd smelled their deaths
by frying, explosion. Inhaled the unmistakable burned-meat
odor, for he'd been downwind from the action, either that or
not breathe. Telling of the Gulf War to those few persons to
whom he spoke of such matters he would say the worst that
had happened to him was fucking sand-flea bites. In fact, the
worst that had happened was diarrhea. And one bright hallucinatory
morning in the desert he saw his soul curl up and
die like an inchworm in the hot sand.

At first he'd missed it. Then he forgot.

Back in the States he learned to be a cop. He got married
to a girl he'd known in high school. He wasn't ambitious
careerwise but he had certain goals. He saw that the civilian
police were a branch of the U.S. armed services and the same
authority/rank bullshit prevailed. That was all right with
him, mostly. If authority merited his respect, authority had
his respect. Captains, lieutenants, sergeants, detectives. They
liked him on sight. They trusted him. He was an old-style
cop of another era. In his patrolman's uniform he made a
strong impression. It surprised him to learn that most cops in
the NFPD had not fired their weapons at any human targets
let alone killed these targets let alone felt good about it and
though he would not tell anyone on the force about his Persian
Gulf experience, for he was not a man to talk much
about himself, somehow he exuded that air.

Yet his first partner, an older, paunch-bellied cop who
had not advanced beyond patrol after eighteen years on the
force, requested another partner after only three weeks.

"Guy like Dromoor, no question he's smart, he's a born cop.
But he's too quiet. He don't talk, it makes you talk too much.
And when he don't answer you then after a while you can't talk
either, then you start thinking too much. That ain't good."

In the NFPD he had bad luck at first. But usually balanced
by good.

He was hurt, sure. Pissed. That his first partner had
dumped him. His second partner, a guy nearer his age, hadn't
lasted long either. Not Dromoor's fault, just bad luck.

He'd been on the force just seven weeks. It was a domestic
disturbance call. Late one muggy August night on the East
Side where the smoke haze from the chemical factories makes
your eyes sting and breathing hurt. Dromoor was driving the
patrol car. As he and his partner J.J. pulled up outside a bungalow,
an individual looking to be a white male, mid-thirties,
was pulling away from the curb in a rust-stippled Ford van.
It was J.J.'s call to pursue the van. What was inside the bungalow
would be discovered by a backup team. The chase
lasted eight minutes involving speeds of sixty, sixty-five miles
an hour along narrow, potholed residential streets in that part
of the city of Niagara Falls few tourists have discovered. At last
the van skidded, fishtailed, collided with parked cars, and the
driver was thrown against the front windshield, lay slumped
over the steering wheel. There was reason to think he was
unconscious. Very possibly he was dead. The windshield was
cracked, there was no movement inside the cab. There came
J.J. and Dromoor behind him, both with guns drawn J.J. was
anxious, excitable. Dromoor perceived that this was not a
familiar experience for him J.J. called out for the driver of the
van to lift his arms from the wheel, keep his hands in sight, stay
in the vehicle but keep his hands in sight. The driver of the van
was unresponsive. He appeared to be bleeding from a head
wound. Yet somehow it happened, Dromoor would replay the
incident many times afterward seeking the key to how precisely
it happened, that the driver of the van stooped to
retrieve a .45-caliber revolver from beneath his seat and
opened fire on J.J, through the side window as J.J. approached;
and there was J.J. suddenly down in the street, a bullet in the
chest. Dromoor, approximately three feet behind his partner,
was struck by a second bullet in his left shoulder before he
heard the crack! before he felt the impact of the bullet which
carried no immediate pain with it, no clear sensation other
than a rude, hard hit, as if he'd been clubbed with a sledgehammer.


Excerpted from RAPE
by Joyce Carol Oates
Copyright © 2003 by Joyce Carol Oates.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
KristyJewel More than 1 year ago
First off, I hate the title. This was not a book that I could read out in public without getting some very concerned looks. I picked up this book because a book blog that I follow had a post about the book and it made me curious. Other than the title, I liked this book. I was a volunteer for an anti sexual assault group for 2 years and this hits the nail on the head (how a sexual assault survivor is treated). This book is extremely dark. I had to put it away every few minutes and regroup.  This book shows how one rape can send ripples and waves through a community. When reading this book the reader gets to see what impact a rape has an individual and society. There were a lot of rape myths that were present and it just made me want to scream at the media. I think the most depressing thing about this book is that the experience of the mother and daughter are true for so many victims of sexual assault.  Ultimately, I found this book interesting and fascinating. I'm going to have to have to reread it again because I feel like I could get more out of this novel on a second read.
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steph2001 More than 1 year ago
Thought it would be better...very short but very hard to read due to the depressing nature of the book
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was great. It is so realistic that I put this book into my own perspective. The things that happened in this book made me realize how much people take for granite. Otherwise this book is wonderful and I would recomend this book to anybody.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Joyce Carol Oates' Rape A Love Story was recently published in paperback. Not once was I disappointed reading this book. Thirty-five year old Martine Teena Maguire and her twevle year old daughter Bethel, were chased through a park after a 4th of July celebration. While Bethel escaped, Martine was gang raped and left to die in a boathouse. Through Bethel, you get to see what a child feels watching their parent survive such a vicious attack. Besides the characters, the writing was a tremendous plus. Oates' did a lot of research of what a rape victim goes through. This is a story of a mother and daughter surviving the unthinkable and beating the odds.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is the most moving I have ever read. There are many unexpected twists and even some irony. READ THIS BOOK!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
With its disturbingly ingenuous title, Joyce Carol Oates incessantly surprises the reader by twisting the hidden agendas of humans and their messed-up truths, only to leave the reader gasping for breath in hopes the undeniably doomed fate is simply a dream. ¿Rape: A Love Story¿ begins with scantily-dressed, sexy, white-trash widow Teena McGuire and her 12-year-old daughter Bethie taking the short-cut home, July 4th, through the park where they are groped, verbally attacked, and beaten. Bethie, with a dislocated arm, hiding in the boathouse, witnesses the gang-rape of her mother ¿[ . . .] by the five drunken guys¿unless there were six, or seven. . .¿, and instinctually becomes her mother¿s savior. Oates follows her traditional motif of portraying two types of characters¿the victimizers and the victims. As the only witness, Bethie identifies the victimizers in a line-up and soon a trial begins, while Teena, barely alive, recovers. Oates creates a marvelous, yet unsafe, haven exemplifying how an entire town, even the media ¿basing their knowledge on rumors¿ turns its back on one family, and ultimately one woman, one child, and one grandmother; and how Teena denies, and eventually loses, boyfriend Casey who apparently can¿t get over ¿what-happened-to-Teena¿ on the Fourth of July. ¿Rape: A Love Story¿, effectively overshadowed with convoluted thoughts, puts one in perspective with the psychological windows of remembrance that victims of rape must slowly open to begin healing. But the question remains¿will justice prevail? And, if so, in what form? An explicit tale of a group of young men¿s unwaning ardor and eventually a woman¿s requited love. Literarily questionable, yet intriguing¿simply for the notion of discovering its ending. For the weak-kneed reader, try hard-to-find (but easy-to-order) tale also by Oates, ¿First Love¿, for comparison in regard to the forced-forward approach in ¿Rape: A Love Story¿ versus a metaphorical, yet more subtle approach.