The Good Daughters, by Joyce Maynard is a simple story on the surface. It is the story of two families, the Planks and the Dickersons. On July 4, 1950, baby girls were born to each family in a rural New Hampshire hospital. For the Planks, baby Ruth was a fifth daughter. For the Dickersons. baby Dana was an only daughter, with a little boy, Ray at home. The two families could not have been more different. The Planks, Edwin and Connie, were a hard working, farming family. The ancestors had lived on, and farmed the land dating back to the 1700's. The Dickersons, George and Val, were restless spirits who moved from place to place, NH, VT, PA etc. every few years. They appeared to have no visible source of income.
Even though the Dickersons moved away from New Hampshire, Mrs Plank insisted on staying in touch. Each March they took a trip to visit the Dickersons; for the sake of the "birthday sisters", she would say. As the girls got older they seemed to have had little in common. In fact Ruth seemed more interested in seeing Dana's brother Ray when they would visit.
While Ruth was artistic and introspective:
"THINGS WERE NEVER easy with my mother, but I adored my dad. My father alone, of all people in our family, seemed to appreciate me, even if he did not always understand what was going on in my head. Where my mother remained distant and dismissive, my father offered nothing but love........"
Dana seemed to be the only one in her family with a solid grasp of reality:
"I think I always had an understanding of the seasons and recognized that all of them--winter as much as summer, fall as much as spring--were necessary to sustain the cycle of life. I might be the youngest, but I kept track of the bills. Where the others whistled in the dark, I considered how we might get by in the event of a worst-case scenario. From what I'd seen of the world, those were far more likely to take place than the paydays George kept expecting".One thing the two girls did seem to share was a sort of restlessness, a sense of being different, and never quite fitting in. The story of told in alternating chapters, by the "birthday sisters" from childhood well into their adult years. Even though the girls have long periods of separation, the reader stays close by their sides to share their sadness, brief periods of joy and their secrets.
MY THOUGHTS - I LOVED this book! It took me a long while to decide what to write about this novel without giving away any secrets. This is a favorite type of novel for me: a coming of age story, and a story with characters I truly cared about. It's about life, about people longing for love, dealing with loss, and a story about trying to find peace with oneself in a not so perfect world. Joyce Maynard has an amazing way of telling a heartfelt story; one that draws you in and doesn't let you go. Her previous book, Labor Day, was also excellent. This is a book that you will want to read in one sitting. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Review Copy-Harper Collins
Review Copy-Harper Collins