Published by St. Martin's Press on January 19th 2010
Genres: literary fiction
Lulu and Merry's childhood was never ideal, but on the day before Lulu's tenth birthday their father propels them into a nightmare. He's always hungered for the love of the girls’ self-obsessed mother; after she throws him out, their troubles turn deadly. Lulu had been warned not let her father in, but when he shows up drunk, he's impossible to ignore. He bullies his way past Lulu, who then listens in horror as her parents struggle. She runs for help, but discovers upon her return that he's murdered her mother, stabbed her five-year-old sister, Merry, and tried, unsuccessfully, to kill himself.
Lulu and Merry are effectively orphaned by their mother’s death and father’s imprisonment. The girls’ relatives refuse to care for them and abandon them to a terrifying group home. Even as they plot to be taken in by a well-to-do family, they come to learn they’ll never really belong anywhere or to anyone—that all they have to hold onto is each other.
For thirty years, the sisters try to make sense of what happened. Their imprisoned father is a specter in both their lives, shadowing every choice they make. One spends her life pretending he's dead, while the other feels compelled--by fear, by duty--to keep him close. Both dread the day his attempts to win parole may meet with success.
A beautifully written, compulsively readable debut, The Murderer's Daughters is a testament to the power of family and the ties that bind us together and tear us apart.
This book was a tough read, not because the prose was bad, but because it’s so full of pain. When Lulu is 10 and Merry is 5, their father does the unthinkable — he kills their mother, and then tries to kill Merry and himself. Lulu is only spared because she ran for help.
What follows is the never-ending aftermath of such a horrific event. Do I believe that the girls’ family could essentially abandoned them? Yes. Not everyone reacts gracefully after a tragedy. Do I believe that Merry could continue to visit her father year after year after year, despite carrying the physical evidence of what he did to her? Yes. You can see every bit of manipulation, even if she can’t. Do I believe that Lulu could really stick her head in the sand and just pretend none of it ever happened? Yes. The guilt of being the survivor, the “one who got away”, is strong. Especially for an older sister who was already treated as a surrogate mother. Especially for the one who opened the door.
It’s not a perfect book. There’s a lot of criticism that it’s repetitive, with Lulu and Merry revisiting the same situations and arguments over and over again. But I think that’s part of the strength of the story, showing that those things don’t just go away. You can’t just grow out of it. You can’t party it away. You can’t just ignore it and move past it. You eventually have to embrace it and hope to turn it into something positive, or at least, something you can live with.
When there’s a report of a terrible crime or event, I think a lot about those who are left behind. Not just the survivors of the dead, but the ones who are injured. Those wounds, mental and physical, never completely go away. I think this book is a good illustration of that. No matter how much you want to yell at them “Just get over it already! Move on with your life!”, it’s not that easy. That pain is deep, and it may never go away.
- “Much discussion could be generated with book clubs because of Merry and Lulu’s feelings for their father. Were they both justified in what they felt for him?” — Marianslibrary’s Blog
- “Definitely not a light-hearted read, but a worthwhile one. It reminded the that of all of the victims of domestic violence, the children most deserve our sympathy and support–not just in their childhood but in the years to come as they deal with the emotional scars that are left behind.” — A Few More Pages
- “Most interesting to me were the paths these women took in their life. Every decision, every choice was almost a reaction to their father’s crime.” — Rather Be Reading