“The July our family fell apart, my sister was five going on six, and I was turning ten, which in my mother’s eyes made me about fifty.” (The Murderer’s Daughters, Meyers)
Randy Susan Meyers’ debut novel delves into the lives of the dysfunctional Zachariah family after a family tragedy rips them apart. Joey and Celeste’s relationship is volatile which culminates in a moment of rage by Joey as he stabs and kills his wife Celeste and tries to do the same to his youngest daughter Merry. How two young children cope with the death of their mother at the hands of their father is at the core of this sad book. The story tells how Merry and Lulu come to grips with this catastrophe and as they enter various stages in their lives the reader sees how each was truly affected psychologically.
After the death of their mother, the girls’ lives begin a merry-go-round residing with various family members. They eventually end at the Duffy-Parkman Home for Girls. Merry and Lulu learn to survive while living there. Lulu makes sure she looks after Merry since she feels it’s her responsibility as the eldest sibling. Lulu is guilt ridden because she didn’t heed her mother’s warning: “After Daddy moved out, Mama instituted inexplicable new rules. Don’t open the door for your father…” (The Murderer’s Daughters, Meyers) Interestingly enough, Merry is drawn to her father who is now in prison. Lulu is at odds with her sister because she can’t fathom Merry’s need to see her father. Not only did Lulu’s mother die on that July day, but in Lulu’s eyes, so did her father. He is dead to her. She turns her back on him and vows never to let him into her life again. 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? I found myself going back and forth playing devil’s advocate as they each state their case. Merry and Lulu were entrapped by the nightmarish memories of their childhood.
The story takes Merry and Lulu finally into adulthood where they both have careers. I don’t want to give too much away because that is what draws you into the book. You find yourself wanting to read about what happens to these two little girls. I kept wondering how they could wake up each day and face their surroundings. I was hoping there would be a silver lining for them. The beauty of this book is you will want to as well! Randy Susan Meyers draws from her experience with working with domestic violence victims. Merry and Lulu’s character analysis is excellently developed. The book is told from Merry and Lulu’s points of view as they grow from children into adulthood. They are forever scarred by their father’s fatal horrific act he can never take back. The alternating chapters between Merry and Lulu gives wonderful insight to what each sister felt, dreamed of, and how they coped with the tragedy in their lives. Lulu dreamed of the ideal family and how everything would be handled – no yelling; family conflicts handled with soft voices. Lulu escapes through reading books she checks out weekly from the public library. Lulu felt responsible for what happened – their mother’s death and their childhoods cut short. “We were here because I’d let my father into our house. Merry had her scar because I’d opened the door.” (The Murderer’s Daughters, Meyers) Lulu and Merry each had different ways of handling their relationships with men. It was quite interesting as to the career paths and choices both of the sisters took. When I read how they spent the day with each other celebrating the anniversary of their mother’s death watching “…the saddest movie with the most tragic actress…” it was quite compelling.
I’m the mother of three beautiful daughters and I love them with all of my heart. As they were growing up I tried my best to love and protect them. I find myself still doing this even though they are adults. No one ever wants to see their children in harm’s way. The following quote from the book brought tears to my eyes because I thought of my own girls. If I could still shield them against life’s adversities I would but realistically I know it’s impossible. They’ve grown their own wings so to speak. “Children bring us closer to God, but sometimes so close we get burned. All my hardest moments, where I truly believed I might die from fright, were around my children.” (The Murderer’s Daughter’s, Meyers)
Thank you Randy for writing this beautiful touching story!