Thursday, January 6, 2011

Review: The Murderer's Daughters

Summary: Lulu and Merry's childhood was never ideal, but on the day before Lulu's tenth birthday their father drives them into a nightmare. He's always hungered for the love of the girls’ self-obsessed mother; after she throws him out, their troubles turn deadly.

Lulu had been warned to never to let her father in, but when he shows up drunk, he's impossible to ignore. He bullies his way past Lulu, who then listens in horror as her parents struggle. She runs for help, but discovers upon her return that he's murdered her mother, stabbed her five-year-old sister, and tried, unsuccessfully, to kill himself.

Lulu and Merry are effectively orphaned by their mother’s death and father’s imprisonment, but the girls’ relatives refuse to care for them and abandon them to a terrifying group home. Even as they plot to be taken in by a well-to-do family, they come to learn they’ll never really belong anywhere or to anyone—that all they have to hold onto is each other. 

For thirty years, the sisters try to make sense of what happened. Their imprisoned father is a specter in both their lives, shadowing every choice they make. One spends her life pretending he's dead, while the other feels compelled, by fear, by duty, to keep him close. Both dread the day his attempts to win parole may meet success.

A beautifully written, compulsively readable debut, The Murderer's Daughters is a testament to the power of family and the ties that bind us together and tear us apart. -- St. Martin's Press

I have been wanting to read THE MURDERER'S DAUGHTERS by Randy Susan Meyers ever since it first caught my eye in a Twitter discussion. A few authors that I really adore were talking up this book in a major way so I put it down on my mental book wish-list. And then, it must have been fate because my friend brought a bag of books to our last book club meeting and it was the first one she pulled out. I grabbed it before anyone else even processed the cover or title. I'm greedy like that when it comes to books!

I really enjoyed THE MURDERER'S DAUGHTERS, though I hesitate to use the word enjoy because this book evoked some pretty strong feelings in me. Maybe a better word is appreciate. I really appreciated THE MURDERER'S DAUGHTERS. I found this book to have an engaging story and intriguing characters, and I thought the book was very well written. My only issue with the novel is that I sometimes had a difficult time reading it because the two main characters were so obviously affected by the murder of their mother by their father. And of course, that's not a knock on the book but rather a complement as to how well the author told this story.

I loved the writing in this book and thought the prose was beautiful, but the real strength of this book to me was in the character development. Both women lived through the same event yet coped in very different ways. The only thing they seemed to share was a dependency on each other. I was extremely impressed with how real these characters were to me, and I admit that I was fascinated by their behavior. I especially thought their relationships with each other (as well as other important people in their lives) were incredibly complex, yet I could understand their actions and feelings. It's apparent to me that the author understand human nature extremely well and especially the behaviors of victims.

Now before I lead you to think that this book was incredibly tragic, I want to say that it's not all about pain. There are many redeeming qualities to both of the characters as well as how they managed to find success in their lives. While I did find their desperation, unhappiness, and discontent to be incredibly painful, the book still left me with a feeling of hope. And I think that's one of the reasons that I enjoyed it so much -- I love books that show the resilience of people.

THE MURDERER'S DAUGHTERS would make an excellent book club discussion book -- namely because the two women in the story are fascinating. I think it would be interesting to talk about how each one was affected by their childhood as well as how each one handled their relationship (or lack thereof) with their father. There is a reading guide available which will help keep your conversation on track. Some of the themes you might want to explore include parent/child relationships, sisterly relationships, love, guilt, resentment, secrets, healing, and forgiveness.

I highly recommend THE MURDERER'S DAUGHTERS if you enjoy well-written stories with well developed (and complex) characters.


Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I have not heard of this book, but am completely intrigued by the premise. I know how you feel when you write that you hesitate to say that you enjoy a book like this because of its subject matter - I tend to read these "types" of books sometimes, and it's tough to write that you enjoy reading about misery, or tragedy. I experienced that with Leslie Jamison's The Gin Closet, which was an incredibly tough topic as well to read.

Great review (as always)!

Beth F said...

A comment like this "but the real strength of this book to me was in the character development" always gets my interest. I must have missed that Twitter talk because this is new to me.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I know exactly what you mean when you want to say you "enjoyed" a book like this! Or a book is "good" if it's about child murder or whatever. I've often thought there must be better words but heck if I know! :--)

bermudaonion said...

I can just picture you snatching that book before anyone else had a chance to grab it.

I've been wanting to read this book for a while, too. Can you imagine living through something like that? It's probably a good thing the sisters had each other.

marthalama said...

I have this book on my shelf and had not moved it up in my "rotation" for some reason. I think it will be moving up. I like using the word appreciate instead of enjoy. There are so many books I don't enjoy, given the subject matter, but really do appreciate.

Kay said...

I have this book, but it is packed away with almost all of my books right now. I'll be enjoying it later this year. The cover is so tender and poignant to me. I'm such a cover junkie!

Rebecca Rasmussen said...

Normally this topic is too much for me, but getting to know Randy a little more changed my mind and I read it and like Julie it's kind of strange, based on the material, to say that I loved it, but I did :)

Beth Hoffman said...

I was scared to read this book when I first heard about it. But then I ended up tweeting with Randy and we became instant friends. I even met her at ALA. Well, I read her book and loved it. She tackles a very tough issue incredibly well.

Sandy Nawrot said...

I often read books revolving around war, so I totally know what you mean. You aren't so twisted that you like to read about misery, but out of misery comes alot of good things like hope, strength and faith.

Amy said...

I have wanted to read this book since I first read a review of it several months ago. I was thrilled to see your review here and then to find out you very much liked the book! Although I imagine it's pretty intense and tough going at times, the themes are very interesting and the characters sound quite engaging which makes this a book worth trying for me!

Thank you for your wonderful review!
~ Amy

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

Remind me never to be on a "book race" game show with you :)

Sigh. I bought THE MURDERER'S DAUGHTERS at an author event months ago, but haven't yet read it. Thanks for the reminder - Randy is very well-spoken when she talks about the novel and the inspiration for it. I'll have to move it up on my stack!

Raejean said...

This book sounds intriguing, something I'd have to be in the right mood to handle.

Thanks for all your great and honest book reviews. You've added to my list of want to read books - not that my list isn't long enough with my kids adding to it all the time.

I posted your site as one of my Most Inspirational Blogs of 2010.

Jenners said...

I hadn't heard of this before this post but I could see the "attraction" to it ... sounds like a compelling (and disturbing) story. I love that you snatched it away as soon as you saw it!

Shelly B said...

I've seen this one around and thought it sounded intriguing. Will have to add this one to my list of must haves!

Veens said...

What a plot, I can't even think of living through something like that. You are right it is never a good thing to say you enjoy such books but then I can't find a better word to describe the feeling of really loving a book which is about such a difficult topic.

I totally want to read this one and will be on the look out for it.

Thank you for a great review.

Swapna said...

Glad to see you enjoyed this one because I have it to review!