BookBrowse Reviews The Good Daughters by Joyce Maynard

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Good Daughters

A Novel

by Joyce Maynard

The Good Daughters by Joyce Maynard
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Sep 2010, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2011, 304 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BJ Nathan Hegedus

Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


A novel about two girls born on the same day, into families as dissimilar as they could possibly be

"One thing about a hurricane: it turns everything upside down. All you know for sure: the world will look different tomorrow."

So begins the story of two families, the Planks and the Dickersons, bound together by the birth of their daughters, the only two babies born on July 4th, 1950 in a small New Hampshire hospital. "Birth sisters" is how Connie Plank refers to her daughter Ruth and the other baby, Dana Dickerson; two girls with nothing in common, born into families as dissimilar as they could possibly be.

Joyce Maynard's ability to define her characters - their vulnerability, their dimensionality, their flaws their strengths, their resolve to do the best they can - grabs hold, completely captivating us. We follow the lives of both Dana and Ruth as chapters alternate between the two girls' voices, watching them grow from children into women.

Ruth Plank is the fifth daughter of Connie and Edwin, tenth generation New England farmers who take great pride in working land that has been in the Plank family since the 1600s. "My father was the oldest son of an oldest son. That's how the land had been passed down for all the generations. The farm now consisted of two hundred and twenty acres, forty of them cultivated, mostly in corn and what my father called kitchen crops that we sold, summers, at our farm stand, Plank's Barn. Those and his pride and joy, our strawberries." There is not a lot of money, but the land is owned free and clear.

Dana Dickerson's parents, Val, an artist, and George, a dreamer of big schemes who is sure that fame and fortune are just around the corner, are financially unstable, emotionally flighty and completely self-absorbed. Dana and her older brother Ray never refer to their parents as mom or dad but rather Val and George, and the roles of parent and child are often blurred. George's continual career ventures mean relocating on a regular basis.

Yet even after the Dickersons move away, these two families, sharing nothing more than the birth dates of their daughters, manage to stay in touch through Christmas cards and a quick yearly visit. The Dickersons usually stop by the Plank farm in early July, around the girls' birthdays, at the height of strawberry season.

Dana cherishes these visits, and at an early age she is deeply affected by the notion Ruth's father shares with her one day, that the only reliable things in life are the seasons and the crops. "Young as I was, hearing him say this moved me. Some part of me admired the Plank family's steadiness and constancy, the order of their lives unfolded, particularly measured against the untidiness of our own. I loved the idea that a handful of corn seeds, properly planted and tended, would lead to tall, straight stalks, and food." Dana, pragmatic and sensible, with her love of the land and the feel of soil between her fingers feels disconnected and removed from both of her own parents.

Ruth, so unlike her older sisters, struggles to please her disapproving mother. While her father, Edwin, takes great pride in his daughter's artistic ability and loves her wholeheartedly, her mother is dismissive and remote towards her. What affection Connie shows Ruth feels forced and wooden.

As Dana and Ruth discover and define who they are, we are left to ponder the concept of nature versus nurture. How much of who we become is determined by legacy? How much by what we are exposed to, what we experience?

This well crafted story unfolds ever so slowly, lingering in just the right places. The smallest of innuendos are placed deftly through out, making us pause to consider their implications. One finds oneself turning page after page with the imperative need to know what happens next, for there are truths to be discovered and questions that beg for answers. And while one plot point teeters on the edge of implausibility, by the time we learn of it we have become so intimately invested with the characters, so caught up in their lives, that we are willing to suspend disbelief.

Maynard's previous novel, Labor Day, dealt with how the choices we make define our own lives. With The Good Daughters, she explores how decisions we make impact the lives of others; like a stone sent skimming across still water, the ripples continue on long after the stone itself has sunk.

Reviewed by BJ Nathan Hegedus

This review was originally published in September 2010, and has been updated for the September 2011 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.



This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  The Perfect Pie

One-Month Free Membership

Discover your next great read here

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Goodbye Days
    Goodbye Days
    by Jeff Zentner
    Guilt can be a heavy burden for anyone to manage, but it's especially difficult for teenagers. ...
  • Book Jacket: The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley
    The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley
    by Hannah Tinti
    Hannah Tinti follows her spectacular 2008 debut, The Good Thief, with a novel of uncommon ...
  • Book Jacket: Music of the Ghosts
    Music of the Ghosts
    by Vaddey Ratner
    Music of the Ghosts is about healing and forgiveness, but it is also about identity and the revival ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Nest
by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

A funny and acutely perceptive debut about four siblings and the fate of their shared inheritance.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Manderley Forever
    by Tatiana de Rosnay

    Bestselling author Tatiana de Rosnay pays homage to Daphne du Maurier.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Stars Are Fire
    by Anita Shreve

    An exquisitely suspenseful novel about an extraordinary young woman tested by a catastrophic event.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

The thing that cowardice fears most is decision

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

Y S M B, I'll S Y

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
Modal popup -