Be glad in the Lord and rejoice! Psalm 32:11

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Good Daughters by Joyce Maynard

At the height of strawberry season in New Hampshire two baby girls are born on the Fourth of July, 1950, in the same little hospital. Dubbed “birthday sisters” by one of their mothers, Ruth Plank and Dana Dickerson’s futures would be forever intertwined as their families dance in and out of each other’s lives from that day forward.

In her new book, “The Good Daughters,” author Joyce Maynard follows the lives of two girls who don’t seem to fit in with their families. One artistic and dreamy, the other solid as the earth – but in true Maynard fashion, the suspense leading to a surprising development at the end will keep readers guessing.

Ruth Plank was the youngest of five daughters born to farmer Edwin Plank and his wife, Connie. While the other girls were content to learn how to become good farm housewives, Ruth always had her head in the clouds, always with a pencil or crayon in hand, sketching life as she sees it. Edwin calls Ruth his “hurricane baby” since she was conceived during a wild and stormy night. Ruth loves her father dearly, but has a hard time connecting with her mother, who has an almost obsessive interest in the Dickerson family and their daughter Dana.

Dana Dickerson’s life is far different from Ruth’s normal one. With a father who is always looking for the next “sure” thing in money-making schemes, a mother who is wrapped up in her artwork, and a brother, Roy, who checks out when ever trouble loams, Dana grows up moving from town to town with her dysfunctional family. A highlight of her life each year is when the family stops by the Plank Farms roadside stand, usually during strawberry season, and Dana has a chance to walk the fields with Edwin and learns to love the land as much as he does.

All through their lives, Ruth and Dana struggle to understand who they are, and as they get older and finally are privy to the secrets both families have held close do the answers come bursting forth – a relief for one, a shock for the other, but a turning point for both that will mark both lives forever.

Joyce Maynard steps back and allows her characters to tell the story of “The Good Daughters.” In alternating chapters the voices of Ruth and Dana are employed to create this mesmerizing tale of secrets and self-discovery. Maynard uses the comparison of the girls’ lives to the “good daughters” (the strongest offshoots from the “mother” plant) of the strawberry plants that Edwin Plank so tenderly tends to, and by mixing in the earthiness of the farm life with the artistic side that influences both families, she offers a fascinating account that will stay with the reader long after the book has been put down.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review. I was not compensated for my opinions.

I am an Amazon Associate, and may received a small renumeration if this book is purchased through this link.


Mystica said...

I like family stories and this will definitely be on it. Were the children exchanged at birth I wonder?

Donna said...

This seems like a really good read. Great review. Thanks.