Summary and book reviews of The Good Daughters by Joyce Maynard

The Good Daughters

A Novel

by Joyce Maynard

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

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Book Reviewed by:
BJ Nathan Hegedus

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About this Book

Book Summary

The bestselling author of Labor Day returns with a spellbinding novel about friendship, family secrets, and the strange twists of fate that shape our lives.

They were born on the same day, in the same small New Hampshire hospital, into families that could hardly have been less alike.

Ruth Plank is an artist and a romantic with a rich, passionate, imaginative life. The last of five girls born to a gentle, caring farmer and his stolid wife, she yearns to soar beyond the confines of the land that has been her family's birthright for generations.

Dana Dickerson is a scientist and realist whose faith is firmly planted in the natural world. Raised by a pair of capricious drifters who waste their lives on failed dreams, she longs for stability and rootedness.

Different in nearly every way, Ruth and Dana share a need to make sense of who they are and to find their places in a world in which neither has ever truly felt she belonged. They also share a love for Dana's wild and beautiful older brother, Ray, who will leave an indelible mark on both their hearts.

Told in the alternating voices of Ruth and Dana, The Good Daughters follows these "birthday sisters" as they make their way from the 1950s to the present. Master storyteller Joyce Maynard chronicles the unlikely ways the two women's lives parallel and intersect—from childhood and adolescence to first loves, first sex, marriage, and parenthood; from the deaths of parents to divorce, the loss of home, and the loss of a beloved partner—until past secrets and forgotten memories unexpectedly come to light, forcing them to reevaluate themselves and each other.

Moving from rural New Hampshire to a remote island in British Columbia to the '70s Boston art-school scene, The Good Daughters is an unforgettable story about the ties of home and family, the devastating force of love, the healing power of forgiveness, and the desire to know who we are.

Ruth
B e a n p o l e

My father told me I was a hurricane baby. This didn’t mean I was born in the middle of one. July 4, 1950, the day of my birth, fell well before hurricane season.

He meant I was conceived during a hurricane. Or in its aftermath. “Stop that, Edwin,” my mother would say, if she overheard him saying this. To my mother, Connie, anything to do with sex, or its consequences (namely, my birth, or at least the idea of linking my birth to the sex act), was not a topic for discussion.

But if she wasn’t around, he’d tell me about the storm, and how he’d been called out to clear a fallen tree off the road, and how fierce the rain had been that night, how wild the wind. “I didn’t get to France in the war like my brothers,” he said, “but it felt like I was doing battle, fighting those hundred-mile-an-hour gusts,” he told me. “And here’s the funny thing about it. Those times a person feels most afraid ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. The novel opens with a terrible storm. How does this beginning portend the events of the ensuing story?
  2. Discuss the "birthday sisters" Dana and Ruth. What is each like? What kind of households are they raised in? Each represents an opposing side of nature: one is scientific and practical, the other an artist and dreamer. How do their opposite personalities affect who they are and how they make their way in the world?
  3. What are your impressions of Edwin Plank, Connie Plank, and Valerie Dickerson? If this story were set today, would the outcome be the same? Why?
  4. Both girls share a special relationship with Edwin Plank. In what ways are they similar in the eyes of this kind man one girl calls ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

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... 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).

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Media Reviews

Booklist

An evocative story ... [Maynard] consistently brings emotional authenticity to the long arc of her characters' lives and to the joy and loss they experience. A profoundly moving chronicle of the primacy of family connection.

Library Journal - Christine Perkins

"...Maynard’s descriptions of the two women's lives from the 1950s to the present is rich and realistic ... Buy for readers who enjoy character development over plot.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. As Ruth and Dana pursue love, contemplate children, and search for home, the truth of what unites their families is finally--at long last--revealed, in this beautifully written book.

Author Blurb Luanne Rice
The Good Daughters weaves a story of choices and events so intimate I felt I was part of it. The novel is wrenching, the emotions radiant, and will leave readers transformed.

Reader Reviews

Jeanette

The Good Daughters
This was an excellent book. I read it in about 3 days because I could not put it down. This is a must read.

Elizabeth

Nostalgic.....
What a heartwarming, cozy, feel good read.....a sweet, nostalgic book...but with all good things there usually are regrets, heartbreak, and secrets. I really enjoyed this book...you will be surprised at who/what the "good daughters" ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

The Perfect Pie

Joyce Maynard always seems to incorporate fresh produce and cooking into her stories, with a special affinity for baking. A scene in The Good Daughters includes freshly baked biscuits from scratch and ripened strawberries, while the preparation of a peach pie in Labor Day provides one of the most poignant moments in the book.

Having taught the art of pie making to scores of people over the years, here are some of Maynard's tips for creating the perfect pie:

  • Use a combination of lard (or Crisco) and butter in equal amounts.
  • Use ice water - as little as you can get away with - the less water, the flakier the crust.
  • Instead of cornstarch, use Minute Tapioca to soak up extra juices. Scatter a little on the ...

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