Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Murderer's Daughters

Book 23 of my 2014 Reading Challenge

The Murderer's Daughters by Randy Susan Meyers

Summary (via 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 girls' self-obsessed mother; after she throws them out, her 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 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 spends her life pretending he's dead, while the other feels compelled to help him, both fear that someday his attempts to meet parole may meet success.

My Opinion
The book started with a page of interesting backstory from the author.  Although thankfully a fiction novel, the idea came from a similar situation in her childhood.  Her father convinced her older sister to allow him in and he tried to kill their mother; the book came from her reliving the memories and wondering what would have happened if the police hadn't arrived in time.  Add that to her experience working with batterers and their victims and you have the makings of a very authentic read.
Fair warning: this is not an "I'll just read a chapter or two before bed" kind of book.  I was hooked from the first chapter and stayed up until 4 a.m. to finish it, plus the subject matter doesn't induce sweet dreams.
Despite its compulsive readability, I didn't completely love the book.  While the characters were fascinating, I wasn't as invested in them as I expected to be.  Part of it was because spanning 30 years in a book led to the reader accessing pivotal events through the years but not much of the overall progression that led them to the end.  I also thought Lulu and Merry were given roles of "good sister/bad sister", "successful sister/failing sister", "responsible sister/drunk sister" and although they were very well-written concerning those characteristics, they also felt a little one-dimensional.
Recommended even though I liked, not loved, it.

Quote from the Book
"Adults should be able to offer themselves up for adoption.  I'd find a family who gathered at every holiday ever invented - quick, get out the Columbus Day tree! - offering ourselves immeasurable occasions to use our in-family jokes and us-only references.  A family that celebrated birthdays in some way other than sending homemade birthday cards from prison."

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