Ruth Plank and Dana Dickerson are born on the same day in the same town, and although they are never really friends, Ruth’s mother takes to calling them the “birthday sisters” and so they remain somewhat in touch throughout the years. Ruth is artistic and dreams of a different life for herself than working on her family’s farm. Dana, a misfit in her own family, is more rooted in reality, plans to attend college and eventually find a home and stay there. Ruth is strangely drawn to Dana’s brother, Ray, and the two do get involved for a period of time, while Dana realizes that she’s interested in women and settles down with a professor named Clarice. As the two women get older, and their families grow and change, they stay in rough contact over the years, until one day the truth behind how the two families are connected is finally revealed.
The Good Daughters begins with the night Ruth Plank was conceived, and with that the reader can tell that the book is going to be an intricate, character-driven family story that will be difficult to put down. I definitely found that to be the case, I knew from the get go that this book was going to pull me in and it totally did. While the novel focuses mostly on the characters, the characters here are so well-written and compelling that I found it next to impossible to put this book down for any stretch of time.
I don’t know how else to say it, and this is going to sound cheesy, but these characters truly spoke to me. For the 300ish pages of this book, Ruth and Dana were a part of me. I cried when they cried, I celebrated when they celebrated, and I was just as shocked by the truth of their family connection as they were. I honestly got lost in this book – I wouldn’t look up or even think about anything else for at least 100 pages at a time. (I am very fidgety, even while reading I get distracted extremely easily, so this is no easy feat!) I cannot possibly articulate clearly enough how much these characters got inside my head and took over, the experience was that powerful for me.
To play devil’s advocate, this book is very heavily driven by the characters, so if you are more into books with an exciting, event-driven plot, I must be honest and say that The Good Daughters probably won’t impress you as much as it has me. But if you can appreciate a book with excellent writing, honest and real characters, which has a nice quietness about it, this book is for you. There are so many things I loved about The Good Daughters so I will simply end this by saying that I most highly recommend this novel. I truly loved it and now I know I must read more from Joyce Maynard!