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After Her: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, August 20, 2013
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In the summer of 1979, the Torricelli sisters, aspiring writer Rachel and her athletic younger sister, Patty, enjoy unlimited freedom exploring the mountain behind their home in Marin County, California. Their father is a charismatic detective for the San Francisco Police Department who has been chronically unfaithful to his wife, which has led to their divorce. Their emotionally fragile mother is severely depressed and spends a lot of time in her bedroom. The sisters amuse themselves by watching television through their neighbors’ picture windows (providing their own dialogue). But their suburban life is upended when a serial killer starts leaving the bodies of young girls all over the trails of their beloved mountain. Their father, who loved to make his own pasta and belt out Dean Martin songs, is greatly diminished over the many years he devotes to trying to find the vicious killer. The plot of Maynard’s eighth novel, although based on the story of the real-life Trailside Killer, strains credulity at times; it is less a thriller than an affecting portrait of the relationship between a father and his daughters. --Joanne Wilkinson
“[Maynard] weav(es) a knotty tale of family secrets, told in the alternating voices of her likable main characters.” (Entertainment Weekly on THE GOOD DAUGHTERS)
“The Good Daughters shows Maynard’s strengths once again—particularly in vivid descriptions of farm life, geographies, and relationships of all kinds. Passions and psychological changes in a character over time ring most true.” (Providence Journal)
“Absorbing.” (More Magazine on THE GOOD DAUGHTERS)
“An evocative story . . . [Maynard] 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.” (Booklist on THE GOOD DAUGHTERS)
“An impressive writer...with a fine sense of time, of place, of humor.” (Buffalo News on THE GOOD DAUGHTERS)
“Exquisite . . . . [A] beautifully written book.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review) on THE GOOD DAUGTHERS)
“In addition to being a beautiful and engaging story, Maynard deftly captures Dana’s struggle to come to terms with her sexuality in the midst of her family’s instability. And her relationship with Clarice is one of the strongest in the novel. Highly recommended. ” (AfterEllen.com on THE GOOD DAUGHTERS)
“Maynard is a clever storyteller.” (Seattle Times on THE GOOD DAUGHTERS)
“Maynard’s spare prose packs a rich emotional punch...a can’t put-it-down mystery.” (People on THE GOOD DAUGHTERS)
“Vividly rendered.” (Tampa Tribune on THE GOOD DAUGHTERS)
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Then there's continual repetition of how the sisters grew up poor, with none of the nice things other kids had because their single mother had no money. At the same time, their father is a detective with the Marin County police force, and eventually becomes head of the department. He should have been making decent money. But there's no mention of child support or him helping their mother financially, even though he's still very much a part of their lives and continually telling them how much he loves them. Seriously -- he couldn't buy them a pair of nice jeans or make sure they had something to eat besides crackers once in a while?
And of course, the whole "we were so poor" thing is repeated ad nauseam. Actually, the entire book is just the drip-drip-drip of the same information over and over again. And as for the "story," don't bother. There's a ridiculous tacked-on ending that totally fails. So I guess at least it's consistently awful.
The father was, to me, a lovely soul but like all humans, had his faults. The mother was disappointing in that she was so self immersed that she was rather neglectful, yet her daughters accepted her, perhaps more so than their father and his often neglectfulness of his daughters.
I fell in love with the humanity of Patty, and was angered by the actions of Rachel, during her young teen years as she did everything to fit in, albeit for a brief time. My only wish was that I would have liked to hear something positive come about, after the fact, for their fathers input. I was surprised that Tis wasn't brought into the story. However, all in all, I truly enjoyed Joyce Maynard's book. I will always believe that she is one of our greatest writers. ( A certain man has absolutely nothing on her, nor anything to do with her natural art of writing).
I thought the relationship between Rachel, the narrator, and her younger sister Patty was excellent. The dialogue, the games they played, their adoration for their flawed father and their damaged mother, all felt very real.
I think this could have made a pretty good YA novel.
I have to agree with some of the other reviewers who have pointed out that there is an inexplicable amount of details that are repeated over and over and over again. And then over again just in case we forgot that Patty has buckteeth. I read this in one sitting on a long flight so the repetition was really annoying. Probably would have been less so, if I was reading intermittently.
The serial killer in the story kills 15 girls and we get a chapter on each one and more. It is oddly a page turner and a drag at the same time. I really was invested in the characters and I wanted to find out what happened next, but because of that, I found myself skimming sections where I more or less knew what was going to be covered.
The big climax reminded me of something that would have been written for a TV movie – a good TV movie, but still sort of conventional implausible action.