The Sometimes Daughter: Book summary and reviews of The Sometimes Daughter by Sherri Wood Emmons

The Sometimes Daughter

By Sherri Wood Emmons

The Sometimes Daughter
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  • Published in USA  Feb 2012,
    320 pages.

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Book Summary

In this poignant and beautifully written novel, Sherri Wood Emmons, acclaimed author of Prayers and Lies, explores the complex bond between a daughter and her errant mother.

Judy Webster is born in a mud-splattered tent at Woodstock, just as Crosby, Stills, and Nash take the stage. Her mother, Cassie, is a beautiful, flawed flower-child who brings her little girl to anti-war protests and parties rather than enroll her in pre-school. But as Cassie's husband, Kirk, gradually abandons '60s ideals in favor of a steady home and a law degree, their once idyllic marriage crumbles.

Dragging Judy back from the Kentucky commune where Cassie has taken her, Kirk files for divorce and is awarded custody. When Cassie eventually moves to an ashram in India, Judy is grief-stricken. At school, she constructs lies to explain her unconventional home-life, trying desperately to fit in to the world her mother rejected.

Cassie calls and writes, occasionally entering Judy's life just long enough to disrupt it. But little by little, Judy is growing up. As she grapples with her father's remarriage and her own reckless urges, she encounters all the joy and heartbreak that goes with first love, first loss, sex, drugs, and self-discovery. And when Cassie comes home again, Judy, who has tried so long to find a place in her mother's life, must finally decide what place Cassie claims in hers.

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

Some of the recent comments posted about The Sometimes Daughter. Join the discussion! You can see the full discussion here.

Do you believe that Cassie will be able to change her life, as she promises Judy she will at the end of the novel?
I guess it would be possible though probably unlikely. Sometimes people do change if they experience enough pain. She would need a lot of support and encouragement. - pennyp

Do you think Cassie is a sympathetic character?
I didn't find Cassie to be a particularly sympathetic person. Yes, she had some bad things happen to her in her life, but I think at some point a person needs to grow up and get beyond the things that have happened. I felt that Cassie was always ... - elizabethh

Do you think it's inevitable that we end up like, or partially like, our parents, or can we chart our own courses?
I think most of us desire to maintain the good characteristics of our parents and expunge what we consider to be the bad characteristics. I think to some dgree we can change these things but some of them may be imbedded pretty deeply. Many times, I ... - pennyp

Does Cassie’s final revelation explain her behavior? Does it excuse it?
I agree with all of the posts here. We all have something in our past that would provide excuses for the way we are. The rape and child that was put up for adoption no doubt affected Cassie, I think what affected hermore though was the way her mother... - pennyp

How important is Judy's father in her life?
Kirk was and will continue to be THE most important adult figure in Judy's life, the principle adult influencing her development. He modeled being a productive/contributing member of society through his education and career. In a more personal way he... - Denise B-K

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Media Reviews

"Emmons has a keen grasp of the difficulties of mother-daughter dynamics, and the specific struggles of young parents who are still figuring themselves out. She also paints the shifting turmoil of mid-’60s to early-’80s America with complexity, creating a vivid, expansive background for an intimate story." - Publishers Weekly

"Emmons has mastered the voice of the adolescent girl. Readers will be able to see the growth of the characters as their story spans a decade." - Romantic Times

"Teens who appreciated Lauren Myracle’s Bliss or autobiographies by Augusten Burroughs and Jeannette Walls of dysfunctional family survivors should also enjoy this novel." - School Library Journal

"I probably read this far too quickly for review purposes, but I couldn't put it down.... Overall: good story, great characters (Judy's father is every bit as well-drawn as Cassie), compelling narration, complex relationships." - KWEP Blogspot

"Told by the perspective of the young Sweet Judy, fans will see the impact of parents failing to parent and eventually abandoning their child. Judy, Kirk and Cassie are fully developed so the reader understands what motivates each thought he parents are filtered by their child. The support cast is solid as they enhance the child’s feelings of not belonging when they try to help her fit in. The ending fails to provide closure, which is disconcerting, yet seems apropos for this intriguing relationship drama." - GenreGoRoundReviews

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Suzanne G.
Good story line....
Judy was born at Woodstock Festival in 1969. Cassie and Kirk are her hippie mother and father. Cassie is in and out of Judy’s life, constantly leaving to try to find herself. This is the story of Judy’s life with Kirk, who goes back to school and becomes an attorney, and her relationship with her vanishing mother.
There a lot of instances when the reader is left up in the air. Why did Judy do this? Or why did Cassie have to do what she did. I honestly didn’t think this was written as well as it could have been. Yet, it was a good story line.

Rated 2 of 5 of 5 by Denise B-K
Interesting Concept Not Fully Developed
Rate "The Sometimes Daughter" with a 2 for several reasons. The first, is the lack of sophistication in the prose - this book read as a YA book rather than one aimed at adults. The characters ended up as stereotypes as their personalities and relationships with each other were not fully developed. Understand the author's intent of demonstrating that an authoritarian/emotionally absent mother married to a passive father creates another dysfunctional generation and so on. In addition, do not believe that Cassie's joining The People's Temple was necessary to convey her psychological need to create an alternate family definition & the negative effects this had on Judy - concepts were already covered with her move to the commune. Specifically do not recommend this for a reading group as there is not enough substance for a discussion.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Tillie Horak
Loved this book
I loved this book. It was a great read from start to finish. It truly shows that just giving birth to someone does not make you their true mother.

It's the story of a young girl (Judy) struggling to cope with her feelings about growing up with a mother (Cassie) who ran away from reality and dropped in unannounced at the most inopportune times was incredible. The book was well-written from the viewpoint of the daughter who was caught in the fine line of hate and love for the woman who gave birth to her and walked out on her.

How can you grow up loving a mother who keeps leaving you to chase her own rainbows? The devastation Cassie brings every time she drops in out of the blue sends Judy back to dark places when she realizes that her own mother is too self-centered to be there for her at any point in her life.

I personally would love to see a sequel to this book, years down the road when Judy has become an adult and has a family of their own.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Lynn Wolf
A 70's Story
The story starts out in an interesting way, but became a bit predictable. The story is narrated by a child who seems to just want a normal family and to feel safe and loved. While one parent devotes their life to the child the other parent is unbelievably selfish and childish. There are some interesting characters throughout the book and they help explain a lot of why some of the characters had certain behaviors. An enjoyable read.

Rated 1 of 5 of 5 by Patty L
Didn't Deliver
The sixties and seventies were turbulent, dangerous yet exciting times. Much of what we see on the news today is contrived and sensational, as if trying to recapture the wonder and awe of the once nightly news casts of forty years ago. There is much from that time that would make a good novel. The Sometimes Daughter is not that book.

As the book opens the main character states “I was born at Woodstock.” That is the shortest best sentence in the whole book. I was intrigued by this statement and the expectation was for more than the book produced. Most unfortunate is Emmons lengthy dialog that rarely feels real or essential to the plot. Skimming from quotation mark to end quote was essential in getting to the end of this book. Not recommended.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by dcolson
The Left-Behind Child
Sweet Judy's mother, Cassie, was a free-love, free-spirited hippie type. The kind of mom that would name her daughter (at least phonetically) after the song that was playing while she gave birth in a tent at Woodstock. As a child, Judy adored her loving, dancing mother. But when Cassie carted Judy to a subsistence farm commune, abandoning her to the care of others, Judy felt the early stirrings of resentment. Even as she grew, Judy was torn between yearning for her mother, and hating the way Cassie put her adventurous life before her own daughter. The writing is lovely; gently allowing the reader to see the impact of events that the child Judy cannot comprehend. This is not one of those tortured childhood novels, but rather a tribute to the strength of family bonds and the integrity of an ordinary life.l

...2 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Sherri Wood Emmons Author Biography

Sherri Wood Emmons is a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of Prayers and Lies and The Sometimes Daughter. She is a graduate of Earlham College and the University of Denver Publishing Institute. A mother of three, she lives in Indiana with her husband, two fat beagles, and four spoiled cats.

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