Summary and book reviews of A Family Daughter by Maile Meloy

A Family Daughter

By Maile Meloy

A Family Daughter
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  • Hardcover: Feb 2006,
    336 pages.
    Paperback: Feb 2007,
    336 pages.

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Book Summary

From the award-winning author of Half in Love and Liars and Saints, a riveting story of love, sex, secrets, guilt, and forgiveness.

Maile Meloy's debut novel, Liars and Saints, captured the hearts of readers and critics alike. Now Meloy returns with a novel even more dazzling and unexpected than her first. Brilliantly entertaining, A Family Daughter might also be the most insightful novel about families and love that you will read this year.

It's 1979, and seven-year-old Abby, the youngest member of the close-knit Santerre family, is trapped indoors with the chicken pox during a heat wave. The events set in motion that summer will span decades and continents, change the Santerres forever, and surprise and amaze anyone who loved Meloy's Liars and Saints.

A rich, full novel about passion and desire, fear and betrayal, A Family Daughter illuminates both the joys and complications of contemporary life, and the relationship between truth and fiction. For everyone who has yet to meet the Santerres, an unmatched pleasure awaits.

1

In the summer of 1979, just when Yvette Santerre thought her children were all safely launched and out of the house, her granddaughter came to stay in Hermosa Beach and came down with a fever, and then a rash. Yvette thought it might be stress: Abby was seven, and her parents were considering divorce, and she must have sensed trouble. At bedtime she cried from homesickness, and Yvette asked if she wanted to go home. Abby said, "I want to go home, and I want to stay here."

The rash got worse, and Yvette's husband said they should tell Clarissa her daughter was sick. But Clarissa had gone back to Hawaii, where she had lived in Navy housing before Abby was born. She said it was the last place she had been happy, and she was staying somewhere without a telephone. So Yvette called Abby's father, up in Northern California.

"Oh...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. A Family Daughter is the story of four generations of Santerres. Discuss the evolving parent-child relationships within each generation.
  2. Discuss the themes of resurrection and resilience in the novel. Consider incidents such as Abby and Jamie's relationship, Saffron's baby, Margot's affair, and the family reunion at the end of the novel. What drives each character to overcome tragedy and adversity?
  3. Why do you think the focus of the book, with the exception of Jamie, is on the women of the Santerre family? What is Yvette's role as family matriarch?
  4. When thinking of the photographer, Yvette realizes ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

A Family Daughter isn't so much a sequel to Meloy's debut novel, Liars and Saints, as it is a parallel story. In Liars and Saints Meloy told the story of four generations of the Santerre family from World War II to the present. In A Family Daughter we meet the same family but from a different perspective .... Meloy juxtaposes the 'fictional' Liars and Saints with the 'real' A Family Daughter to tell a story that stands alone in either book but, when combined together packs "a seismic wallop".   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews
The Boston Globe

[Meloy] may be the first great American realist of the twenty-first century....The Santerres aren't real but they feel like they are, and the reader will not soon forget them.

Los Angeles Times

Meloy's Santerres may just be the most fascinating, engrossing American family since the Louds.
BookBrowse note: In 1973 PBS made a 12-part documentary about a Californian family - The Louds. The documentary is considered by many to be the originator of reality TV and opened the door for future shows portraying dysfunctional families.

The New York Times Book Review

Upends popular notions of American fiction...A spectacular first novel.

Kirkus

Each novel stands alone; together they pack a seismic wallop.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Meloy shifts point of view fluently, and though her characters weather all sorts of melodrama, the novel itself feels light - poignant and affecting, meaningful yet somehow weightless.

Library Journal - Reba Leiding

This new work is enjoyable on its own, but those who have read Meloy's earlier effort can puzzle whether this book is a sequel or a revision. Highly recommended for popular fiction collections.

Booklist - Emily Cook

Riveting and engrossing, Meloy's tale of a family struggling with guilt and forgiveness spans decades and crosses continents, proving her status as one of the best literary observers of contemporary American life.

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Beyond the Book

About the author: Maile Meloy is the author of the story collection Half in Love and the novels Liars and Saints and A Family Daughter,. Her stories have been published in The New Yorker, and she has received The Paris Review's Aga Khan Prize for Fiction, the PEN/Malamud Award, the Rosenthal Foundation Award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She lives in California.

About Meloy's first novel, Liars and Saints: "This first novel packs quite a punch. In less than 300 pages Maile Meloy paints a picture of 50 years in the life of one Californian family from World War II to the present. It ...

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