“I wasn’t surprised when Mama asked me to save her life. By my first week in kindergarten, I knew she was no macaroni-necklace-wearing kind of mother. Essentially, Mama regarded me as a miniature hand servant:
Grab me a Pepsi, Lulu. Get the milk for your sister’s cereal. Go to the store and buy me a pack of Winstons. Then one day she upped the stakes: Don’t let Daddy in the apartment.”
The Murderer’s Daughters by Randy Susan Meyers
In the Summer of 1971, Lulu’s and Merry’s world falls apart in an instant. They’d seen the rows their parents got into over the years; their mom was more interested in glamour and not being bogged down with caring for two little girls and their father was often hitting the bottle, but this particular July everything changed when Lulu opens the door to her angry father.
Before either of the girls can get help their father has killed their mother and attacked Merry and now the girls are essentially orphaned. Once he’s sent to prison the girls are sent to live with relatives but their stay with their aunt and uncle isn’t very long as it is difficult to have the girls in the house and serving as a reminder of a tragedy. Lulu and Merry are sent off to a group home where they have to endure bullies and loneliness.
Years pass and the girls develop their own coping skills for dealing with the family tragedy. Lulu tries to build a world where her father doesn’t exist and Merry feels like it’s up to her to maintain some contact with her father while he’s in prison. Finally the girls are fostered by a wealthy and respectable family, the Cohens, but Lulu’s plans of finally being part of a family don’t necessarily pan out as she hoped. The family is kind but they they can’t become the mother and father the girls lost.
As the girls get older and have their own careers and relationships they are never free from their past. Merry is hopeful that their father will one day be released but Lulu believes that will never happen. She needs to know that will never happen because then her carefully constructed world where she has essentially rewritten history would all fall apart.
The sisters are always in a struggle over their parents and what they feel towards them now. They rely on one another and have always been there for each other but they’ll never agree on forgiveness and understanding.
The ending became a bit melodramatic with one scene in particular but still this was overall a good family drama. One thing in particular that I thought it did very well was handling how children perceive when adults are angry or have arguments. They don’t fully understand things and can easily blame themselves.
In my copy of the book there is a letter from the author on why she wrote the book and it’s not surprising to learn that she has worked for years with intervention programs. I can only imagine that the families and cases she worked with led her to write a story that feels very understanding of such a difficult situation.
Source: Advance Review Copy