Daughters Louise (Lulu) and Meredith (Merry) have been fending for themselves for a while, so when, in July, there is a knock on the door, Lulu tries to keep her father from entering. But he convinces her that all will be fine.
But it is not. Soon their lives are in crisis mode: their mother is dead, they are living with their maternal grandmother, Mimi Rubee, and their father is in prison.
The Murderer’s Daughters is alternately narrated by Lulu and Merry, in the first person voice of each, and it carries us along through the years, revealing what happens to them. Cast aside by their maternal relatives, they find themselves in the Duffy-Parkman home for girls, since their paternal grandmother, Zelda, is in ill health.
At the time of the disaster, Merry was five and Lulu ten. They each have very different attitudes toward their father. Lulu refuses to visit, but Merry comes to count on Grandma Zelda taking her to see their father.
Even though Merry was also stabbed in the altercation, she seems to need her father. Perhaps because she was the light of his life…before.
Through the years, we follow each of them and see how the events of that summer have informed their lives. Is Lulu unable to forgive her father because she can’t forgive herself? What if she hadn’t opened the door? A question she asks herself. Why is Merry able to forgive her father? How does going into an upper middle class foster home, after the girls’ home, affect their lives? Will they continue to feel “not good enough”?
Their relationships, or lack thereof, can be attributed to the domestic violence of their early lives, and the secrets they keep will define them in the future. In adulthood, Lulu becomes a doctor and finds a man named Drew who is understanding, supportive, and truly good, while Merry continually makes wrong choices and drinks too much.
As a probation officer, she seemingly clings to the dark side. When Merry moved into an adjacent apartment in Drew and Lulu’s home in Cambridge, she seemingly inserted herself into their lives. Much of what she did seemed to suggest the symbiosis of their relationship; a symbiosis that Lulu has railed against.
In this excerpt, I find the hidden truths:
“The past trapped us. Even now, at forty-one and thirty-six, we remained prisoners of our parents’ long-ended war, still ensnared in a prison of bad memories, exchanging furtive glances, secrets known and secrets buried flashing between us.”
And then, finally, a frightening hostage situation at Merry’s work brings everything to a head. Then, when a letter from prison informs them of the unexpected, something is altered. The chains of the past may finally slip away. Although this dark and emotionally combustible story kept me engaged, I felt that the more than thirty year span of the book did not allow for a deeply insightful look into the lives of the characters, and the narratives of the girls were limited by their unreliable perspectives. 4.0 stars.