The very provocative yet intriguingly contradictory title of Joyce Carol Oates’s book grabs eyeballs. I admit this is what made me pick up this one fifty page book in the first place, and the rest of the book did not disappoint. Different in every respect of the word, this thought provoking novella narrates the traumatic turn Teena and her family’s lives take after her brutal gang rape at the hands of a few local hooligans. Explicit, disturbing, and yet heartbreakingly human, right from the start the narrative is skillfully intertwined with the brutal aftermath.
In this story about rage, rape and love, Joyce once again emerges as the master teller of tales about hapless women victimized by men. It highlights the disastrous turn a single day; a single decision can take when Teena Maguire chooses to take a shortcut after watching the Fourth of July fireworks with her daughter. Bethie has to hide within hearing range of her mother being brutally raped and murderously thrashed. What ensues is a fledgling struggle for justice. Legal justice may elude them but Oates through her brilliantly conceived character of Officer Droomor ensures that poetic justice is delivered in the end
In its very rawness, the book is both compelling and repelling. Oates minces no words in the description of the caustic mind numbing violence that the female protagonists are subjected to. The book itself becomes an attack and critique on the imbecilic misogynists, in whose minds the author is so brilliantly and astonishingly able to project herself. As one critic very appropriately sums it up, “Rape: A love Story, is a diamond-hard dissection of modern mores, it is also the tale of Teena and Bethie’s silent champion – a man who knows the meaning of justice. And love.”