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WHAT CAN A MAN HAVE, BETTER THAN GOOD DAUGHTERS?
on August 5, 2010
THE GOOD DAUGHTERS
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!