Karen's Reviews > The Murderer's Daughters

The Murderer's Daughters by Randy Susan Meyers
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's review
Jul 06, 2010

liked it

When Lulu and Merry were children, their lives were derailed and, to some degree, destroyed when their father murdered their mother in an alcoholic rage. Lulu lives with the guilt of having been the one to let him into the apartment after her parents' separation; Merry lives with the scars, both literal and figurative, from her father's attack--he tried to kill Merry and himself after stabbing his estranged wife. With few relatives willing to care for them, the children soon find themselves wards of the state in a cheerless, dangerous orphanage. Lulu refuses to forgive her father, but Merry faithfully visits him in prison. Forever after, their lives are defined by the violence of their youth.

The novel grows most interesting as the daughters grow older. I found both of their tales of adulthood more gripping than the younger chapters. Lulu dedicates herself to study. She becomes a doctor and finds a gem of a man, then makes her own family. Merry crawls from one inappropriate man's bed to another, smokes and drinks too much, takes a thankless job as a probation officer. . . by all counts, hers is the less stable life, yet she seems more able to come to terms with her father's crime. However both women continue to be affected decades after the attack and decades after they both reach maturity. Lulu insists on telling everyone they know, with few exceptions, that the girls were orphaned as children. Merry hates the lie and hates the loneliness of her burden in offering her father moral support as he becomes an old man in prison.

I liked it, as I tend to like most character-driven novels. The author writes smoothly, although sometimes the characters' inner voices sound a bit like the author stepping in rather than natural voices. I wasn't thrilled with the plot point that drives the revelation of the family secret--a bit too soap operatic in nature--but it served its purpose as the needed device to alter both women's thinking. I also liked the character of the father, who was neither all demon or all repenetant angel. In fact, he changes very little in the book and never seems truly to accept his own responsibility for the crime, only saying that he was "just a kid" when it happened. As Lulu points out, so aptly, "No, we were kids."
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