The day before Lulu’s tenth birthday, as her five year old sister, Merry, and she pretended to nap, their father banged on the door. Lulu had been warned by her mother to keep her father out, just one of many demands her mother placed on her tiny shoulders. Not knowing how to deny her father’s seemingly reasonable pleas she opened the door and the unraveling of their less than ideal childhood began.
As Lulu hid in the bathroom and little Merry snuck out into the living room their parents began to fight. Their mother screamed that their father had a knife, that he would kill her and railed for Lulu to run to the neighbor for help. By the time she returned her mother lay dead on the floor, Merry lay on their parents’ bed with a slash in her chest and their father lay next to her, his wrists slit.
Their father survives and is imprisoned for this crime of passion and Merry eventually recovers, although the scars are always there for her to tap whenever nervous or scared. Lulu and Merry are forever labeled “the murderer’s daughters” and are essentially shunned by all remaining relatives save their grandmothers. When their maternal grandmother dies they are shipped off to an orphanage where they have to scrape and fight for used clothes and subpar food. Lulu grows up with heavy guilt that their mother’s death is her fault and holds a deep seated hatred for her father, refusing to visit him in prison or read any of his letters. Merry on the other hand feels inexplicably tied to her only remaining parent, visiting him every other week and feeling responsible for whatever little happiness she can provide.
“The murderer’s daughters” continue to grow as their father remains behind bars. Lulu becomes a neat and responsible doctor, wife and mother. Merry is a wild and unencumbered court worker who goes through men as quickly as her booze. Both are refusing, in their own unique way, to fully deal with their family’s past. Lulu made her sister agree long ago to tell everyone, including Lulu’s children, that both their parents died in a car crash, even as Merry continued to visit their father. When the reality of his early release is thrown at them, they are no longer able to ignore the past. No matter what they wish, they are going to have to face their mother’s murderer face to face and determine what roll he will or will not have in the lives they have so tenuously established.
The Murderer’s Daughters is a testament to heartache. What these two girls are forced to experience and the responsibilities placed on their shoulders from such a young age is just devastating. Having everyone, including family, look at them as tainted goods has the effects you would imagine and, while both begin to seek some sort of resolution by the end of the book, this isn’t a “happily ever after” sort of story. Both of their parents are such reprehensible characters and I couldn’t help but imagine what sort of life they would have had even if this tragedy didn’t occur.
If you enjoy a story that explores all the damage that can be done by a horrible childhood, give The Murderer’s Daughters a try. If you prefer your stories to be resolved in a nice, neat package, this one isn’t for you.
Colleen lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, son and pet fish. When not working or taking care of her family she has her nose stuck in a book (and, let’s face it, often when she is working or taking care of her family as well). Nothing excites her more than discovering a new author to obsess over or a hidden jewel of a book to worship.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by St Martin’s Griffin. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.