I love reading debut novels. They have an edge to them that is fresh and in this particular case, even gritty. Randy Susan Meyers has taken readers to a place that most people don't experience and the ones that do, probably spend most of their time wishing they didn't.
The title THE MURDERER'S DAUGHTERS is pretty bold and self explanatory, however, I discovered while reading this moving story about two sisters who lost their mother at a young age at the hands of their drunken and abusive father, that there are a lot of gray areas.
Here's a synopsis from Goodreads:
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 girl's self-obsessed mother; after she throws him out, their troubles turn deadly.
Lulu's mother warned her to never let him in, but when he shows up, he's impossible to ignore. He bullies his way past ten-year-old Lulu, who obeys her father's instructions to open the door, then listens in horror as her parents struggle. She runs for help and discovers upon her return that he's murdered her mother, stabbed her sister and tried to kill himself.
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. Though one spneds her life pretending he's dead, while the other feels compelled to help him, both fear that someday their imprisoned father's attempts to win parole may meet success.
- Please note that in my review I work very hard to NOT include any details that may spoil or give away any aspect of the plot. Please read on knowing that I have taken great care in writing my thoughts on the book.
The reason I was initially drawn to this book was that it is one family's story told by the children. The innocence of a child's perspective is an honest and sometimes gut-wrenching reality that can often be overlooked, whether purposely or not, by adults. Although when the story begins, Lulu and Merry are children, we follow them into adulthood and watch how their tragedy affects them as they mature and, for one sister, has children of her own.
Randy Susan Meyers writes a complex family drama in a simple, straightforward manner. I use the term 'simple' not as a negative, but as a positive, as in stripped-down and authentic. Her writing is precise and deliberate with the story itself as it's main character. Speaking of characters, there are not a lot of them, but each one, no matter how large or small, has their purpose. Each sister takes turns telling the story through their own eyes. Lulu and Merry are portrayed in a very realistic way that lends to the undeniable believability of this story. Unfortunately, domestic violence happen every day in all cultures but the way in which we deal with it has a huge impact on all of the parties involved, whether we choose to see it or not. That is a big part of this book. It is 1971 when their father kills their mother and life was much different back then. It was before the days of therapy and self-help books. Family troubles were kept hushed and not talked about. I felt an instant connection with both of the girls and that feeling stayed with me throughout the entire book. The book is divided into parts; their childhood, their young adult years and as grown women.
This was a quick read for me, not only because I was into it, but also because there is a lot of dialogue between the characters and not a lot of descriptive detail. The girls each deal with their father's actions in very different ways and it was easy to understand each one's reasoning. There is no right or wrong here. One thing I wasn't expecting was the inclusion of the murderous father's point of view. It was also explored and revealed in a realistic way and begs the questions Has he paid for his crimes? Does he deserve a second chance? and Does he truly have remorse?
If you are in a book club, this would be a fantastic pick because there is so much to discuss, even though some of the subject matter is a bit dark and daunting. The actual physical abuse happens very early in the book and afterwards comes the emotional ramifications. Even if you aren't in a book club, this is a very good debut novel by an author who has her own experiences with domestic violence through her social work with batterers and victims alike. She has also had her short stories published in several publications. I will absolutely be on the lookout for future works from this up and coming author. If you're interested and would like to know more about Randy Susan Meyers, I encourage you to visit her website. Among other things, there's a section for book clubs and you have access to her blog, Word Love, as well.
Author: Randy Susan Meyers
Publisher: St. Martins Press
Published: January 2010