St. Martin’s Press|February 2, 2011|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-312-67443-4
Lulu and Merry’s childhood was never ideal, but on the day before Lulu’s tenth birthday their father drives 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 to never 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, and tried unsuccessfully to kill himself.
Lulu and Merry are effectively orphaned by their mother’s death and father’s imprisonment, but 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 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.
Lulu, 10-years-old, her sister, Merry, 6-years-old lived with their mother and father in Brooklyn. Their mother was no “macaroni-necklace-wearing” kind of mother and viewed 10-year-old, Lulu as a “miniature hand servant.” In July of 1971 their family fell apart. Lulu and Merry’s mother kicked their father out of the family home and told the girls not to let him in when he came to the door. Mom went to take a nap and ordered the girls’ to do the same. While napping someone knocked at the door. Lulu got up to investigate and realized it was her father. She told him her mother was sleeping and couldn’t let him in. Her father, who was drunk, demanded to be let in so Lulu cracked open the door with the safety chain still on. Her father was becoming impatient and demanded she let him in. Not knowing for sure what the right thing to do was, Lulu released the safety chain and he barged his way in.
Their mother was livid when she found him in the apartment and they began to fight and argue. He picked up a knife to stab the girls’ mother and she yelled to Lulu to run downstairs and get their neighbour, Teenie. Lulu stood stock still for a moment, disbelief clouding her mind that their father would try to kill their mother. Finally she took off running and got Teenie. But by the time they returned to the apartment he had stabbed their mother to death and she was lying in an ever growing puddle of blood. He had also stabbed little Merry in the chest and tried unsuccessfully to kill himself. Thankfully, Merry also survived.
Now with their father in jail and their mother dead, the girls are orphaned. None of their aunts and uncles wanted to take them in so they ended up in the Duffy Home, an orphanage. Eventually, Mrs. Parker the head of the home takes a liking to Merry and Lulu and takes them home as foster children.
The story follows the girls through the rest of their childhood, into their teenage years and finally into adulthood. The book is written in alternating chapters between Lulu and Merry so we get a close-up view of the emotions and turmoil each is going through.
The characters were very well-developed. The girls came from such a dysfunctional family that it’s a wonder either of them even made it to adulthood. Both girls dealt with this tragedy in completely opposite ways and it was interesting being privy to each of the girls’ thought processes.
The Murderer’s Daughters was a captivating read and I’ll remember Lulu and little Merry for quite a while to come.