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The Good Daughters: A Novel Hardcover – August 24, 2010

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; First Edition edition (August 24, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061994316
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061994319
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (155 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #937,989 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Two families, the Planks and the Dickersons, are mysteriously entwined in this exquisite novel that centers on decades of life at a New Hampshire farm. Youngest daughters Ruth Plank and Dana Dickerson, born on the same day in the same hospital, take turns narrating the struggles they face as children. Ruth feels a coldness from her mother; Dana is unsettled by her kooky parents constantly uprooting her and her brother Ray. Regardless, the Planks pay a yearly visit to the Dickersons no matter where they've ended up living. As the girls come of age, Ruth takes an interest in art, sex, and Dana's brother, Ray, with whom she later reunites, at Woodstock, in a swirl of drugs and mud. Meanwhile, Dana realizes that her desires are directed toward women and sets off to pursue agricultural studies at a university, where she meets Clarice, an assistant professor. As time goes by, the floundering Plank Farm is in danger of being seized by Ruth's former boyfriend, a man who has had his eye on the land for years. As Ruth and Dana pursue love, contemplate children, and search for home, the truth of what unites their families is finally--at long last--revealed, in this beautifully written book.
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From Booklist

In her seventh novel (after Labor Day, 2009), Maynard tells an evocative story of two babies born on the same day in the same hospital to two starkly different families. Ruth, dreamy and artistic, is born into a pragmatic farm family, while Dana, interested in plants and animals, seems more grown up than her flighty parents, who are constantly moving. Nevertheless, Ruth’s mother makes a point of visiting Dana’s family almost every year, wherever they are, calling the two girls “birthday sisters.” As the years pass, Ruth finds the love of her life and tragically loses him, eventually settling for marriage with an insurance salesman and a home on the family farm near her beloved father. Dana finds love with a female college professor and success selling her own goat cheese and strawberries at a small farm stand. Although Maynard relies on a central plot contrivance that strains credulity, she consistently brings emotional authenticity to the long arc of her characters’ lives and to the joy and loss they experience. A profoundly moving chronicle of the primacy of family connection. --Joanne Wilkinson

Customer Reviews

A beautifully written story.
Beachy Queen
I could not put this book down, and read it through from start to finish.
L. Barrell
I liked Dana quite a bit as a character and enjoyed her story.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

54 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Pamela A. Poddany VINE VOICE on August 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )

Joyce Maynard hits the excellence button again in her newest novel THE GOOD DAUGHTERS.

We are introduced to the Plank and Dickerson families who both celebrate having daughters born on the same day, the 4th of July, 1950. While being more acquaintances than friends, the two families see each other yearly to mark the 'birthday girls' special day. These visits mostly consist of the Dickersons coming to the Plank farm to purchase produce.

Ruth Plank has four sisters, not being really close to any of them. As for her and her mom's relationship, that is cold, distant, and awkward. Her mom, Connie, always seems to have to force herself to pay any attention to Ruth, while lavishing attention on the other girls. Also, Ruth doesn't resemble any of her siblings or mom.

Dana Dickerson has the same problem regarding her bond with her mom, Val. Dana has one older brother, Ray. Ray and Dana couldn't be more different, both physically and in temperment. Dana's parents are the type who don't stay in one place very long, moving around the country constantly, never holding down real profitable jobs, and never really paying much attention to either Ray or Dana.

Connie Plank has a strange obsession with the Dickersons, always bringing them up in conversations, sending them small gifts, and making a yearly visit to see them. While nobody can understand these almost foreceable visits, they continue to take place. The Dickersons are never too cordial and after a while the visits stop.

The Planks farm their land and the Dickersons move from city to city. Ruth Plank loves art and becomes immersed in that world. Dana, on the other hand, is very interested in plants and biology.
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40 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Pasiphae on August 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Occasionally a book or movie contains a revelation that is supposed to surprise everyone, but it's so obvious (in this book from page 4 on) that the only suspense is in waiting to find out how the characters will react when they get the news. That was almost but not quite the case in this book.

The story is competently narrated in two first person voices that sound exactly alike, even though the characters are supposed to be different from each other in every way. It's easy to tell whether Dana or Ruth is doing the telling, though, because their paths are very different. Ruth follows an artist's way. Dana follows a farmer's way. And the reader goes on a little tour of the sixties and seventies, from New Hampshire to Boston, Colorado, British Columbia. Ruth even goes to Woodstock, where she falls madly in love, takes acid and hears legendary bands performing. But strangely, it all sounds and feels the same, no matter where the characters are or what they're doing. And that is my main problem with this book. It's this flat, emotionally aloof narration.

There are some lovely passages (the time in BC is really beautifully told) but for the most part, even when very painful or harsh things are going on, the characters retain a strange distance from the events. Perhaps that's why in the end, when another lovely and fitting revelation happens, I was not as moved as I thought I'd be. I really liked the ending twist. I liked Dana quite a bit as a character and enjoyed her story. But the somber, joyless tone throughout this book left me unmoved, especially by Ruth.

My other problem? I didn't buy what turned out to be a major factor in the basic premise, best described as "what women did." You'll understand if you read it; in no way did I believe that would ever happen.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By book lover on September 12, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I did enjoy this book but I didn't think it was particularly memorable or insightful. I saw the "twist" at the end coming from early on, but that's not what gave me pause so much as the fact that the voices of the two women (both written first person pov)were almost exactly the same so I had trouble remembering which woman was narrating which chapter. I also found the story narrated in such a way that it only skimmed over key developments and scenes that I wish had been available to readers. This is particularly true at the end, which feels rushed and almost synopsisized. And finally, it's clear to me that the author wasn't personally familiar with the time period she wrote about in dealing with the girls' childhoods.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Bonnie Brody TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Joyce Maynard's books are usually about love, loss, life, and resolution. This book is no exception. It is a lovely book that I'd like to have read while resting against a tree in a forest or while lounging in a canoe in a crystal still lake. It's that kind of book.

The Good Daughters is about two girls, Dana Dickerson and Ruth Plank. They are called `birthday sisters' because they were born in the same hospital on the same day, almost nine months to the day after the great hurricane of 1949. Because of this connection, their families stay in touch as the girls are growing up. Usually they visit one another once or twice a year. The Planks own a large farm in New Hampshire that has been in their family for generations. The Dickersons are never in one place for very long.

Ruth grows up on the farm with four older sisters. The four other sisters all look alike, just like their mother. They are short, sturdy, strong girls who are close with one another and their mother. Ruth is tall and lean, built unlike her sisters or mother. Her father calls her `beanpole'. Ruth doesn't think that her mother loves her like she loves her other daughters. Their relationship is stiff and difficult at the best of times. Ruth feels very close to her father and loves to ride the tractor with him or spend any other alone time she can get with him. Ruth is drawn to art and wants to be an artist when she grows up. She has an active imagination and loves to create stories in her head.

Dana's parents are on the fringe of society and move around frequently. Her mother is a narcissistic artist and her father is absent more than present. He is full of get-rich-quick schemes that come to naught. Dana's mother is almost six feet tall and blond.
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More About the Author

I've been a writer all my life. Over those years, I've worked as a newspaper reporter, columnist, radio commentator (I was Liberal-of-the-Day on CBS radio at the age of 19, on a show called Spectrum) . For eight years, I published a syndicated column about my life called "Domestic Affairs", but when my life got increasingly complicated (I got divorced) and my children grew to the age where it was no longer a good idea to write about them, I ended the column and turned to writing fiction. One of my novels, To Die For, was made into a terrific movie, directed by Gus van Sant , in which I can be seen in the role of Nicole Kidman's lawyer.

My memoir, At Home in the World, published in 1998, engendered a fair amount of controversy at the time of its publication --still does, in some quarters, because I chose to write about events in my life that involved a famous and revered older author, J.D. Salinger, who had decreed that I should never speak of him. This past September a new edition of At Home in the World was brought out, with a new introduction (and for the first time, I recorded the audio book of that one.) It's a story I hope will speak to many , but particularly to women.

In recent years, I've published four more novels--The Usual Rules , The Cloud Chamber, Labor Day, The Good Daughters and my latest, After Her. (A number of my older books , including a collection of my newspaper columns and my first novel, Baby Love, are available on e-book now too), as well as a number of essays that can be found in various collections. (Read over the titles--aging, divorce, anorexia, miscarriage, disastrous midlife dating--and you may get a picture of my life, I suppose, though a number of the more cheerful aspects --more enjoyable to live through, but less good as material--would be missing.

Labor Day has been made into a film, directed by Jason Reitman , and starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin. If you like the novel, I think you'll be happy with the film. I certainly am.

You can learn more about my work, and my tour schedule (also my writing workshops on Lake Atitlan, in Guatemala) on my website,

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