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A Family Daughter: A Novel Paperback – February 20, 2007

3.1 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The Family Santerre, first introduced by Maile Meloy in her 2003 novel, Liars and Saints, is back again, inspected and reported on from another angle. This time, in A Family Daughter, granddaughter Abby is the narrator. She is left with grandmother Yvette when she is seven, suffering in equal parts from chickenpox and boredom. Her mother, Clarissa, is off trying to remember what it was to be happy. Feckless Uncle Jamie is called upon to entertain Abby. A bond is formed between them at that time that has far-reaching consequences.

This family is the most chaotic bunch of narcissists to come along in some time. Yvette and Teddy, matriarch and patriarch, are devout Catholics on whom some of their childrens' antics are, fortunately, lost. Jamie is another centerpiece of the novel: funny, charming, libidinous slacker that he is, he is temporarily irresistible to everyone. Abby hits a bad patch in college after the death of her father and Jamie is there to console, and sleep with her. The impact of this event (eight events, really) results in a book, maybe fiction, maybe true, that eventually has the whole family on its respective and collective ear.

Abby's Aunt Margot, exemplary wife and mother, on automatic pilot for thirty years, suddenly leaves home to find a former lover. Clarissa might be a lesbian, she isn't sure. Abby, now happily ensconced with her former T.A., Peter, is lured to Argentina by Jamie to help care for his libertine fiancee's mother's adopted child. And, that's just a peek at what's going on. Convoluted? Yes, but it all works. Meloy can write the socks off most authors. She maintains an ironic distance from her characters in prose that you absolutely cannot stop reading until you find out every last detail. The whole shebang culminates in a Christmas celebration with everyone present. Not your ordinary singing-around-the-piano event. May the Santerres continue to thrive in Meloy's imagination! --Valerie Ryan --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

Review

"The author grounds her sleight-of-hand narrative with characters that come to life through spot-on dialogue and timely silences." --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; Reprint edition (2007-02-20) (February 20, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000WPQGCY
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,145,041 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By M. Crenshaw on March 19, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I loved Maile Meloy's story collection, Half in Love, and also enjoyed Liars and Saints. I had really been looking forward to A Family Daughter but I am just so disappointed! The plot is often ridiculous,and the characters just aren't credible enough to carry the book. Much of it is extremely predictable and reminded me of a soap opera. The dialogue just doesn't make sense. A five year old, for example, can speak in complete sentences in real life. This one, a key character, just keeps saying one word, "Dogs!" over and over again. I think the difference with this book is that it is completely invented, Half in Love was obviously something she knew from growing up in Montana, and you felt the place and the people resonate through her eyes. This book is just not her best. I am half way through and I can completely understand why other reviewers said they didn't finish it.
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Format: Hardcover
The story of the Santerres is continued from LIARS AND SAINTS in this tale told from the point of view of several of the characters. When Abby is seven, her mother and father are separating. Abby stays with her grandparents, developing chicken pox and a close relationship with her college-aged uncle Jamie, who comes home to entertain and delight his niece.

After the divorce, Abby lives in a joint custody arrangement --- a month with her warm but strict lawyer father alternating with a month with her free-spirit mother and her mother's multitude of boyfriends. Abby grows up and decides to go to college at the University of San Diego, maybe partially because that's where her parents met, were happy together, and conceived her.

Tragedy strikes the family and Abby falls apart. She leaves school, cannot eat, and refuses to be consoled. She takes off on her own, and is far too alone until Uncle Jamie comes to help her, once again rescuing her from a dreary stretch. In the midst of a startling new twist in their relationship, Jamie learns a potentially devastating (if true) family secret, which he's afraid to confirm. Meanwhile, Abby becomes fascinated by what lies beneath the surface of family connections. She begins a novel based on her own family, embellished with her imagination.

Jamie becomes besotted with and then engaged to odd, beautiful, chronically unfaithful Saffron. Saffron asks him to come with her to Argentina to help with a family disaster of her own: her mother, Josephine, who has recently adopted a baby, now has been stricken with dementia. Jamie and Saffron request Abby's company on the trip to translate for the child who speaks only Spanish. In Argentina, settled into the gothic atmosphere of Josephine's mansion, their situations change rapidly.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you liked Liars and Saints from Maile Meloy or even "Both Ways is the Only Way.." then you are going to like this book A Family Daughter which is a derivative book of Liars and Saints. It doesn't pick up where Liars and Saints left off but it takes one of the key actors in the earlier books--Abby--and blows out her character in a much deeper way than in the first book. Personally, I would have liked to have seen Meloy do a derivative book on Jamie--maybe Meloy will read this review and think of doing it. In this book, we once again see the Santerre family in all its glory and warts. Abby who is the granddaughter is the narrator of this book and we learn more about her mother Clarissa who at best is an absentee mom. We aren't exposed as much to Yvette and Teddy from the standpoint of their deep religious beliefs as we are in book one but they definitely play a big role. We definitely get deeper into the incestuous relationship between Abby and Jamie which I thought was the most fascinating part of Liars and Saints. We even are exposed to a school counselor who helps them both work out their issues. Abby ends up writing a book that polarizes the family. It exposes in a fictional (but obvious) manner the secrets of the Santerre family and ends up creating a rift between certain family members. I really enjoyed this book. Not quite as much as Liars and Saints but definitely as a very solid accompaniment,. Ihihly recommend it to all Meloy fans.
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Format: Hardcover
Half the considerable charm of Family Daughter is the fact that Meloy revisits her earlier work, Liars and Saints, and deftly twists the plot points and characters, creating a brand new dish with the same ingredients.

Family Daughter realizes the potential that Meloy first displayed in Liars and Saints, a book that left me reeling, sort of like flipping through a photo album on warp speed. (In the space of a few pages, Clarissa is pregnant with Abby, Abby is born, grows up, and dies.) The characters blurred together in the finest soap opera fashion, and getting to the end of the book felt like winning a race: I'd covered a lot of ground but if there were roses to stop and smell, I hadn't glimpsed them.

So I appreciated Meloy's willingness to reintroduce us to Abby and to give us a chance to get to know this complicated, often confused, but ultimately insightful protagonist. Not only that, Meloy relaxes enough to have fun, introducing eccentric charmers such as the deliciously-named Saffron and devilish Uncle Freddie.

Having skimmed the other reviews, I can't sign off without addressing the negative comments I saw.

First, you want serious literature? Please, help yourself, put this book down and dust off the Tolstoy or Proust. Daughter was not written to be the foundation of your Ph.D. dissertation.

Next, the whines about the lack of congruency between Liars and Daughter. From my perspective, one of the coolest aspects of Daughter is that whole parallel universe thing. After Abby publishes her family novel, the reader is left wondering whether Abby's novel was actually Liars and Saints--there are hints that many of the key elements of Liars, notably the "who's your mama" mystery/scandal, were concocted by the family daughter.
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