Summary and book reviews of Isabel's Daughter by Judith Ryan Hendricks

Isabel's Daughter

by Judith Ryan Hendricks

Isabel's Daughter
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2003, 385 pages
    Jul 2004, 400 pages

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Book Summary

From the author of Bread Alone comes an intimate tale of a woman, given up at birth, piecing together her mother's identity.

After a childhood spent in an institution and a series of foster homes, Avery James has trained herself not to wonder about the mother who gave her up. But her safe, predictable life changes one night at a party in the home of a wealthy Santa Fe art dealer when she stumbles upon the portrait of a woman who is the mirror image of herself.

Avery has found her mother, Isabel Colinas, an artist who died eight years earlier in a tragic accident. Slowly but inevitably, she is compelled to discover all she can about the woman. Searching for Isabel -- in her work, in the stories of friends, rivals, and lovers, in Isabel's own journal, and in what's left of Querencia, the old miner's cabin that was her haven -- Avery is drawn into complex relationships with the people who knew her mother. And the unexpected reappearance of Will Cameron, the boy Avery loved in high school, further complicates matters. As she draws together the threads of her mother's artistic heritage, her grandmother's skills as a curandera, or healer, and her own talent for cooking, Avery learns that, while discovering Isabel provides a certain resolution in her life, it's discovering herself that brings lasting happiness.

Beautifully observed and insightful, with Isabel's Daughter Judith Ryan Hendricks delivers a moving portrait of familial love -- a bond that transcends time and place.

santa fe
April 2000

The first time I saw my mother was the night she died. The second time was at a party in Santa Fe.

Once in history class I made a time line. It was a thick, straight black line, intersected by crosshatches representing dates and events. The teacher claimed that you could tell by studying it how events were related to each other, the causes and effects. The problem is, time isn't a straight line. I think of it more as a huge arc, curving gently into space, keeping not only the future just out of sight, but the past as well. You never really know what might have caused something to happen, and the effects ripple outward in ever widening circles.

Like losing my contact lens, for instance. I was supposed to be off this whole weekend, my last free weekend before the season gets crazy. And then Juana calls on Thursday to tell me Patrice stepped off a curb and broke her ankle and they need me to work a party Friday night. "Pinnacle Gallery on...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
Discussion Questions

  1. Even though Avery has never met her mother, are there any parallels in their lives?

  2. When Avery runs into Will at the café, why isn't she more receptive to his suggestion that they get together and talk about the past?

  3. Why is Avery so casually cruel to Rita at times, even as she acknowledges how much she owes her?

  4. What significance does Avery's mixed blood have for her? For the story?

  5. Why is Avery so reluctant at first to learn about her mother, after all the years of wondering?

  6. ...
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Media Reviews

USA Today - April Umminger

At times, Isabel's Daughter borders on predictable. However, Avery's clairvoyant visions prevent overdone details of obvious resolutions between characters. Hendricks' novel is an engaging read, which adds a little extra to an ordinary story.

Daily Oklahoman - Peggy Gandy

This wonderful read offers an escape the reader will be reluctant to return from. It's warm-hearted and realistic with just enough humor to keep it from getting too heavy. And, if you are a devotee of Santa Fe, N.M., you will love the author's descriptions of day-to-day life in this artistic community.

Denver Post - Robin Vidimos

Hendricks' easily readable style combined with a pacing that pulls the reader in without lingering too long in any single place, results in a novel that is heartening and not heavy, a thoughtful summer read.

Publishers Weekly

The climax involves a heady dose of feel-good melodrama, but Avery's no-nonsense toughness keeps the saccharine at bay.

Booklist - Karen Holt

Readers of this fine novel won't want to tune out any part of Avery's life.... ... calls to mind Barbara Kingsolver in her affinity for wise women and the power of close female friendships.

Reader Reviews

Billie Z.

This is an absolutely wonderful book. This is the story of Avery James, the daughter of an artist (Isabel) who was deposited in a Foundling home at birth. Avery grows up painfully and constantly at a distance from those around her. The novel is ...   Read More


I love this book. More than that, I love the way this book is written. Judith Ryan Hendricks had my attention from the moment I started the book until the second I put it down. Reading is one of my favorite past times, and I finish at least 2 ...   Read More

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