Customer Reviews: The Good Daughters: A Novel
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VINE VOICEon 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. Ray, a very good-looking and charismatic, charms his way through life, giving into his constant and drastic mood changes. Ruth Plank thinks he is the most beautiful boy she has ever seen and carries a torch for him for years. No other boy/man can ever measure up to Ray. Their paths cross in the future and what will be will be.

Ruth and Dana tell their stories chapter-by-chapter in their revolving voices. I love this type of writing format. We travel through their lives with them, from Barbie dolls to the pain of first love, the adventures of Woodstock, through marriages, divorces, jobs, aging parents -- life in general. The story is fast paced and full of the human condition. Maynard grips your heart hard as you, the reader, learn to care very much for her authentic and life-like characters.

The reader immediately is made aware that something is not quite right when it comes to the 'daughters' and later in the book the truth is revealed. While the reader is very conscious of what may have happened and the milk is spilled at the end of the book, the suspense and wonder of what actually happened is delicious. The reality of what actually happened between these two families is surprising. You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out immediately that something just isn't right.

Maynard is one author nobody should miss out on. Her books are different and wonderful often dealing with sensitive issues such as THE USUAL RULES that deals with a young girl's heartache and life after the devastation of September 11. You may wish to read LABOR DAY that deals with an escaped convict moving in with a woman and her son and the consequences of that Labor Day weekend.

This book comes highly recommended!

Thank you!

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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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on September 12, 2010
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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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. Dana has a brother, Ray, that is quirky and ephemeral. Neither parent pays much attention to the children. Ruth and Ray have a special relationship. Dana's mother showers her with Barbie dolls and Barbie outfits which are about the last thing in the world that she wants. When Ruth comes to visit she likes to play with them. Dana is short and stocky, not built at all like her tall, lanky mother. Dana loves the smell of the earth and the Plank farm. She doesn't like to dress up. Her idea of dress-up is clean jeans and a clean shirt. She wouldn't be caught dead in a dress.

The book harbors a big secret that is obvious to the reader very early on. This secret, however, is not obvious to Dana or Ruth. As they grow up and become the women they were meant to be, pieces of the story fall into place more and more.

The story is told in the alternate voices of Ruth and Dana. Each chapter is told by one of the girls and is about their lives from their births in 1950 until they are in their 50's. The reader is privy to their childhoods, first loves and relationships. We live with them through the Vietnam War, Woodstock, their love of the land, and their relationships with their families. It is a tender book that has its share of sadness and torment. Joyce Maynard knows how to write page-turners that are literate and strongly emotive. This is a wonderful follow-up to Labor Day.
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on August 24, 2010
What a heartwarming, cozy, feel good read.....a sweet, nostalgic book...but with all good things there usually are regrets, heartbreak, and secrets. I really enjoyed this will be surprised at who/what the "good daughters" turn out to be and will also learn some fun agricultural facts about fruits and vegetables.

Dana and Ruth were born on the same day, but they came from two completely different backgrounds. Dana Dickerson had a childhood that wasn't stable, and Ruth Plank had one that was totally what a childhood should be. Dana's parents were flighty, moved around, and their father never held a job for too long...her mother was an artist and acted as though she didn't even have any children. Dana actually never even called her parents Mom and Dad. Ruth's parents were very down to earth, had a farm to take care of, made sure their children were taken care of, and were called Mom and Dad.

Ruth's mother felt some sort of kinship with Dana's mother since their children were both born on the same day, even though Dana's mother laughed at Ruth. Ruth's mother would make a point of visiting the Dickersons each year even though it was a long trip and as usual an uneventful, uncomfortable, and unfriendly occasion.

The book continued by describing the lives of the two families during the 1950's with the focus on the girls and their choices of careers and partners that of course had been affected by their family and childhood.

I really enjoyed the was during the time I was a child, and I could relate to some of the situations...if you liked The Glass Castle, you will like this as well. My rating is a 5/5. Great story
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on November 21, 2014
This book may be Maynard's best yet. There are two families the Planks and the Dickersons. The Planks live on a farm that has been in their family for a lot of years. They raise strawberries and have a stand where they sell to the public. The Dickersons are neighbors and customers. The link to the families is that Ruth Plank and Dana ( I believe is the name) were born on the same day. the fourth of July. Connie Plank, the mother of Ruth, sees to it the families stay in touch. The Dickersons move around a lot. George the father is "always going to make it big." Dana has an older brother, Ray, who is so handsome and Ruth has an ongoing crush on him. Ruth has four older sisters. She never feels she has a close relationship with her Mother; like she is not really in the family.A lot of issues are covered. Lesbians, Dana is lesbian and has a beautiful life with Clarice . You read of ALS in that relationship. Alzheimers is one disease that is covered, brain cancer another. Ruth and Ray do have a period of time together, but Connie is quick to break that up. The plots weaves in and out, Now before you start trying to figure out who the good daughters are, "good daughters" are the best strawberries to start the next crop. This is a book you won't want to put down.
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on August 30, 2010
Maynard's premise in this book is an interesting one. Unfortunately, her efforts to be coy about that premise result only in heavy-handed foreshadowing that really leaves very little to the reader's imagination. Given how much she gives away, it seems that what was really important was not what the big secret was, but how the characters would react once they found out. That being the case, I wonder why Maynard chose to frustrate the reader by giving away almost the whole thing through less-than-subtle hints rather than just telling the reader what happened in the beginning and letting the story focus on the characters and how learning the truth changes (or doesn't change) their lives. There are a few details that are left unanswered until the big reveal near the end, but it wasn't enough to maintain any sort of narrative tension.

Once I got beyond the fact that there was no mystery where it seemed like there was supposed to be one, I was able to enjoy this book. Maynard's descriptions of her settings are beautiful, and I did find myself caring about the characters and how they would deal with finding out the truth. Unfortunately, the lovely prose does not make up for the narrative shortcomings.
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VINE VOICEon February 24, 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
There's no doubt that author Joyce Maynard can weave the language well, but her storytelling leaves out something needed in this book - heart. I felt that although she tried very hard to develop the two narrators, Ruth and Dana, their characterization ended up feeling just a little forced and flat. I never felt like I engaged with them, or cared about them much. The peripheral characters seemed to be stereotypical - a church lady, a free spirit, a philanderer, a stolid farmer, a wounded soul . . . when you can easily label characters that you don't care about, there's something faulty in the writing. The plot was highly predictable - no spoilers, but focusing on physical traits that Maynard emphasized, I had figured out the mystery less than halfway through the novel, thus killing any sense of suspense and making the remainder of the book move more slowly for me. I would recommend this book only to those who just read for the sake of reading and enjoy every book despite its flaws.
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VINE VOICEon September 11, 2010
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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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on January 18, 2016
Wow! Once I started it I could not stop until I had finished. I caught on early to the secret but had to know how it could have happened. It was lovely how the author developed the characters. My heart hurt for them although I cheered for their victories and their strength.
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