Book Review: The Murderer's Daughters

The Murderer's Daughters
Published By: St. Martin's Griffin
Release Date: Feb. 2011 (Paperback Edition); originally published in 2009
Buy it at Amazon
Source: Received from Publicist at Goldberg McDuffie Communications 
**This is an Adult book**

The Murderer's Daughters isn't my typical read, but this is one that taught me that sometimes reading outside of my comfort zone can be a good thing. This book follows the story of two sisters, Lulu and Merry, who witness a horrific act of domestic violence as children. This event leaves their mother dead, their father in prison, and both girls without a home to call their own. As the novel unfolds, readers get to watch these sisters deal with their past through childhood, teenage years, and into adulthood. This book is a testament to how long the effects of domestic violence can linger within a person.

This book was often hard for me to get through because of how strongly I was attached to Lulu and Merry. Randy Susan Meyers writes in a way that pulls you into the story right alongside the girls. There were moments when I had to put the book down and walk away for a bit because I had just reached my emotional overload point. However, I kept going back because I had to know what happened to these girls as their lives continued to move forward in time. Meyers does a beautiful job of creating two characters who are so real that they could be women you work with or your next door neighbor. She truly shows readers that domestic violence can live behind any face.

The Murderer's Daughters takes an honest look into the eyes of grief and forgiveness. I loved that Randy Susan Meyers used the sisters as symbols for these two ways to react to tragedy. Lulu refuses to see her father after the incident and prefers to pretend he doesn't exist. Even as an adult, she tells her children that her parents died in a car accident when she was a young child. She has no desire to reveal the truth or to allow her daughters to know their grandfather. However, on the other hand, Merry is the one who refuses to let their father go and continues to visit and care for him in the years after his incarceration. She eventually becomes the ultimate symbol of forgiveness as she struggles to create a relationship with her father through their prison visits and letters. I found both sisters to be strong and broken at the same time.

I also truly appreciate that Randy Susan Meyers stayed true to the experience. She didn't try to censor the story, but rather she let it flow in a natural way. It wouldn't have rung quite as true for me if she had felt the need to soften the experience for the girls. Tragedy of this magnitude is not something that goes away. It is baggage that will always be lurking, threatening to steal away even the happiest of moments. This one is definitely worth the read, but don't be afraid to give yourself time to digest it all. I don't think I could have read this one without little breaks; it would have been too emotionally overwhelming for me.

One Last Gripe: I didn't like how I never really found out why the father stabbed Merry as well. His reasoning just didn't add up to me.

My Favorite Thing About This Book: Randy Susan Meyers' writing style

First Sentence: I wasn't surprised when Mama asked me to save her life.

Favorite Character: Lulu

Least Favorite Character: Aunt Cilla

Lulu and Merry's childhood was never ideal, but on the day before Lulu's tenth birthday their father drives them into a nightmare. He's always hungered for the love of the girls’ self-obsessed mother; after she throws him out, their troubles turn deadly.

Lulu had been warned to never to let her father in, but when he shows up drunk, he's impossible to ignore. He bullies his way past Lulu, who then listens in horror as her parents struggle. She runs for help, but discovers upon her return that he's murdered her mother, stabbed her five-year-old sister, and tried, unsuccessfully, to kill himself.

Lulu and Merry are effectively orphaned by their mother’s death and father’s imprisonment, but the girls’ relatives refuse to care for them and abandon them to a terrifying group home. Even as they plot to be taken in by a well-to-do family, they come to learn they’ll never really belong anywhere or to anyone—that all they have to hold onto is each other.

For thirty years, the sisters try to make sense of what happened. Their imprisoned father is a specter in both their lives, shadowing every choice they make. One spends her life pretending he's dead, while the other feels compelled, by fear, by duty, to keep him close. Both dread the day his attempts to win parole may meet success.

A beautifully written, compulsively readable debut, The Murderer's Daughters is a testament to the power of family and the ties that bind us together and tear us apart.