- Paperback: 278 pages
- Publisher: Harper Perennial (August 23, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0061994324
- ISBN-13: 978-0061994326
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (221 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #314,592 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Good Daughters Paperback – August 23, 2011
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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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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!