Today's Grateful List/31 December 2015

  • Going to get answers no matter what

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Good Daughters

Next up...a Vine review from the fantabulous Joyce Maynard. I suspect she could write the phone book and I'd be enthralled.

Born on the same day, Dana Dickerson and Ruth Plank actually seem to have very little in common. Dana's parents, Val and George, are free spirits who move their family frequently and cannot seem to hold on to anything; Ruth's parents are the latest in many generations of Planks who have farmed the same land in New Hampshire for over 200 years. Dissimilar in looks and temperament, the only reason the two remain in any sort of contact as they grow up is that Ruth's mother maintains a yearly trip to visit the Dickersons wherever they might be living, almost as though it's a sacred pact that only she knows about. The one good thing about these trips is the opportunity for Ruth to see Dana's brother Ray, a boy she maintains a crush on throughout the years.

Told in chapters that alternate between the lives of the girls as they grow up, Maynard foreshadows the major plot point along the way so often that it's easy to see what tragedies will unfold as the stories play out. Ruth's an artist who doesn't fit in with her four older sisters and who feels distance from her mother; Dana is a lesbian with a kinship for all things agricultural. As their lives march on through the 60s and into the 70s, both experience love and loss as they come to the awareness that sometimes what makes a good daughter is not what we are but what we do.

Maynard's writing is always a joy to behold, and The Good Daughters is no exception. Relatively short at under 300 pages, the inter-connectedness of the lives of these two young women play out against bigger cultural events and smaller familial actions. While I would have liked for there not to have been so many obvious hints at what the twist would be, it didn't detract from my overall enjoyment of Maynard's gift of words and her ability to bring life to her characters. Scenes of emotional loss so deep that it physically hurt brought tears to my eyes and yet this is not a book without hope and understanding. Maynard has a rare talent and The Good Daughters is yet another example of her complex layering. As long as she's writing, I'll continue reading.

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