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Book Review: The Good Daughters by Joyce Maynard

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Power lines are down, trees are falling, winds gust pushing rain to vertical, but you would expect that in a hurricane. So, as this story opens in October 1949, this violent storm surrounds the Plank and Dickerson families in New Hampshire. The aftermath of a hurricane can be devastating and permanent, and so like the hurricane, when Ruth and Dana are born, nine months later, their births are permanent but the devastation will not show up until many years later.

The story is told by Ruth Plank and Dana Dickerson in alternating chapters. In this way the author allows an intimate view of their persona and thoughts. Without this form, I doubt the reader would feel the empathy for their struggle. The families couldn’t be more different, and so there are clues from the onset that there is some mix-up with the two girls.

The Planks live on a farm with permanence and consistency. Val Dickerson is an artist, her husband a dreamer with a penchant for get rich patents. In contrast, their lives are transient and inconsistent.

Ruth and Dana go through life feeling an odd sense of disconnect with their families, but shirk it off as nothing to worry about. They each feel it just is what it is. Ruth accepts her mother’s distance and focuses on her drawings, obsessing about Ray Dickerson, Dana’s sexy brother. Dana, yearns to be a farmer; increasingly aware that she is a lesbian, she finds love with Clarice.

The Good Daughters with innuendo and secrets, provides a curious puzzle to piece together as you witness the girls’ painful self-awareness rip their memories apart. No one deserves this betrayal. The author’s use of foreshadowing throughout keeps your mind spinning. Like gossip, you crave more details. Yes, and you will probably cry with this one too. The reality is, the reader still has much to learn and figure out as the author reveals the ultimate devastation this hurricane left behind.

The Good Daughters
Joyce Maynard
William Morrow
August 24, 2010
978-0-06-199431-9
$24.99, 288 pages

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