Review: The Murderer’s Daughters by Randy Susan Meyers

Title: The Murderer’s Daughters

Author: Randy Susan Meyers

Genre/Pages: Fiction/307

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Release Date: January 19, 2010

Rating: 4 Bookmarks

Source: Publisher

Nat’s One-Sentence Synopsis:  Randy Susan Meyer’s debut novel tells the story of two sisters trying to survive in the aftermath of their mother’s murder, at the hands of their father.

In the seconds it takes 9-year-old Lulu Zachariah to run to a neighbor for help, her father manages to murder her mother, stab her five-year-old sister, and make a feeble attempt on his own life.  As little Merry recovers in a Brooklyn hospital and their mother is buried, their father is carted off to prison in Staten Island and Lulu begins to gather the pebbles of guilt that she’ll carry for the rest of her days.

The sisters are hastily dispatched to a orphanage by their mother’s frosty sister, Cilla, and so begins a hardscrabble life for Lulu and Merry.  Childhood with their mother hadn’t been easy–Celeste wasn’t going for any Mother of the Year awards–and Lulu was well-versed in the role of the caretaker.  The one thing Lulu didn’t count on was her sister’s insistence on having a relationship with, and visiting, their inmate father.

Through Lulu’s shrewd efforts, she and Merry are fostered by a pair of wealthy empty-nesters, thus securing them both academic opportunities and creature comforts.  Lulu is determined to outrun her past, and doggedly studies her way into college and medical school in Boston, only to have Merry–and their father’s specter– follow behind.

The novel alternates voices–between Lulu and Merry–and spans more than 30 years.  Lulu’s repressed guilt over letting their father into the apartment after their mother expressly forbade it, continues to eat away at her.  While she has created an alternate history for herself–telling people her parents were killed in an accident–her sister continues to visit and write to their father.

The more dependent Merry becomes on Lulu, and later her husband and children, the bigger their father looms.  Lulu can never get any distance from him because she’s tethered to her sister who is tethered to their father and their past.  The entire time I read this novel, I envisioned Lulu trying to swim to the surface of the ocean, dragging a line from her leg to which her sister was hanging, from which their father clung, like an anchor dragging them all down to the ocean’s floor.

As the novels draws to a close, Lulu comes face to face with the fact that she can’t outrun or bury her past and confronting it might be the only way to get some closure.  The Murderer’s Daughters was a compelling read, and I’m surprised there wasn’t more buzz about it online.

While the novel did drag a bit in the sisters’ later years, the character development and subplots held my interest even when I grew frustrated with Lulu’s type-A personality or Merry’s needy one.   Meyers also managed capture credible voices for her child narrators.  There were a few melodramatic scenes, but on the whole this novel is well written and engrossing.

The Murderer’s Daughters is an ideal selection for a women’s book club and a reading group guide is included.  Additionally, Meyers may also be available for book club call-ins or visits (if the club is in the Boston area).

13 Comments

  • At 2011.02.05 00:03, Dishy said:

    WOW. Nat, as many of your reviews as I’ve read, this book sounds as though it truly grabbed you – and me, in the process. I am intrigued. 4 bookmarks is some pretty high praise. I’m not one for fiction, but this sad tale might be worth investigating. Thanks for the thoughtful and (again I must say) intriguing review.

    • At 2011.02.05 09:42, bermudaonion (Kathy) said:

      What’s sad is there are kids trying to survive situations just like that. I can’t imagine growing up after something so horrendous. The book sounds thought provoking!

      • At 2011.02.05 10:19, Beth F said:

        I cannot even begin to imagine how these girls survived such a devastating event. I bet this would make a good book club selection.
        Beth F´s last blog post ..Imprint Friday- West of Here by Jonathan Evison

        • At 2011.02.05 13:04, Jane Steen said:

          I TBR-listed that one. The premise is interesting. Thanks!
          Jane Steen´s last blog post ..Post 98! And The Mystery Is

          • At 2011.02.05 14:59, Aths said:

            I’m glad this book was a great read! I’m really looking forward to reading it and hopefully will get to it this month. It sure sounds thought-provoking.
            Aths´s last blog post ..Books in the Bag Feb 5- 2011

            • At 2011.02.05 16:56, Alita said:

              I remember hearing something about this book a while back and thinking it sounded interesting. Thanks for bringing it to my attention again!
              Alita´s last blog post ..Soundtrack Saturday – The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

              • At 2011.02.05 21:05, Lisa said:

                I didn’t like this one quite as well but totally agree that it would make a great book club choice. I felt like the characters got a little stagnant after a while but overall they were very believable.
                Lisa´s last blog post ..The Year of the Hare by Arto Paasilinna

                • At 2011.02.05 22:46, Christine R. said:

                  Looking at the cover, I would have never picked this one up – it looks like a fluff read, despite the title. After reading your review, I changed my mind. It sounds intriguing. I will pick it up and let you know!

                  • At 2011.02.05 23:23, Coffee and a Book Chick said:

                    Definitely one that I’m sure keeps you mulling over the state of several a family out there today experiencing a similar tragedy. This sounds like an incredible book, one I will need to check out.
                    Coffee and a Book Chick´s last blog post ..Bury Your Dead- by Louise Penny

                    • At 2011.02.06 12:53, Jennifer said:

                      I remember seeing some reviews for this book a while back and I have seen it in several bookstores. I’m certainly intrigued by the storyline. I am hoping to plan another book club event in my residence hall and I’m thinking that this might be a good pick.
                      Jennifer´s last blog post ..Contemplation Corner- Mulligan

                      • At 2011.02.07 14:15, Ti said:

                        I agreed to be on a tour for this one, so I’ll be reading it soon. I’m drawn to stories about dysfunctional families.
                        Ti´s last blog post ..Review- Hating Olivia

                        • At 2011.02.07 21:32, Jenners said:

                          I think I have heard of this one …. and it sounds good. Great review. You have me interested.
                          Jenners´s last blog post ..My Take A Chance Challenge 3 Books

                          • At 2011.02.09 12:38, Mystica said:

                            This sounds such a good story. A good review. Thanks
                            Mystica´s last blog post ..Two short book reviews – one a mystery the other family with a WWI background

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