Daughter's Keeper

( 13 )


How much would you sacrifice to save someone you love?

When Olivia, wild-haired and headstrong, makes a terrible mistake, she must turn to the person least likely to help—her mother, Elaine. Motherhood was a role that Elaine never embraced and her best never amounted to much. But now Olivia faces prosecution for a naïve connection to a drug deal and she needs Elaine more than ever. As the days count down and Olivia's future hangs in the ...

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Daughter's Keeper

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How much would you sacrifice to save someone you love?

When Olivia, wild-haired and headstrong, makes a terrible mistake, she must turn to the person least likely to help—her mother, Elaine. Motherhood was a role that Elaine never embraced and her best never amounted to much. But now Olivia faces prosecution for a naïve connection to a drug deal and she needs Elaine more than ever. As the days count down and Olivia's future hangs in the balance, Elaine must decide just how much she is willing to give for a second chance with her daughter.

With Daughter's Keeper, Ayelet Waldman has crafted a redemptive journey at once highly emotional and unbearably suspenseful, as Olivia and Elaine's struggle builds to a beautiful, heart-wrenching climax. In this luminous, gripping novel, Waldman brings to life the tensions and the tenderness that forge the unshakeable bond between parent and child. Daughter's Keeper reveals the unlimited boundaries of forgiveness and the sacrifices we make for love.

"A powerhouse novel of complex emotions so compelling that when I finished the book, I started over again."—Amy Tan

"In Daughter's Keeper, Ayelet Waldman shows that the power of love, even when prickling with thorns, can ultimately provide what the criminal system cannot: a hard-fought, hard-won second chance."—Glen David Gold, author of Carter Beats the Devil

"Waldman's passion and affection for her characters shine through."—Publishers Weekly

"Waldman has written Daughter's Keeper with enough intelligence, tenderness and craft to shape outrage into a story that is both moving and enthralling." —Dave Eggers, author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and You Shall Know Our Velocity!

"Ayelet Waldman has brought the war on drugs home, and has shown us just how close to home it can come....She looks past headlines and into the heart. What she finds there is hope for us all." —Dorothy Allison, author of Bastard Out of Carolina

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
Ayelet Waldman, a former public defender who teaches the legal and social implications of America's drug enforcement policies at Berkeley, could have easily written a brainy nonfiction book on the flaws and failures of the so-called war on drugs. Instead, Waldman has poured her knowledge into a gritty novel that portrays the innocent people who are caught in the middle. — Suzan Sherman
Publishers Weekly
Waldman, author of the Mommy Track mystery series, here takes a more serious tack, telling the story of a young woman who battles the American legal system's inflexible drug laws. Olivia Goodman, a rebellious 22-year-old, dropped out of college as a sophomore and headed for Mexico. After she moved back to her hometown of Oakland, Calif., she was followed by Jorge Luis Rodriguez Hernandez, with whom she had a brief affair in Mexico. Jorge crossed the border illegally and is unable to find work, and Olivia feels obligated to support him. Desperate for money, Jorge is persuaded to participate in a drug deal, and Olivia's vague complicity sweeps her into an intense legal battle when she is arrested with Jorge. To make matters worse, Olivia discovers she's pregnant with Jorge's baby. As Olivia fights for her freedom, her mother, Elaine Goodman, is doubly tormented. Elaine raised Olivia on her own, but never felt she could love her enough. Now, when she has finally found happiness with a man, she is forced to choose between helping her daughter and holding on to her fiance. Waldman takes a somewhat didactic approach-U.S. drug laws are discussed at length, and the story of Elaine and Olivia's relationship can read like a case history-but Waldman's passion and affection for her characters shines through. (Oct.) Forecast: A 50,000 first printing and eight-city author tour might seem ambitious for this rather modest novel by Waldman (who is married to Michael Chabon), but the book comes festooned with an impressive array of blurbs (from Glen David Gold, Dave Eggers, Dorothy Allison and Amy Tan, among others). Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Waldman, known for her delightfully lighthearted "Mommy Track" mysteries, here takes a serious turn as she explores the sad effects of the government's mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines on a middle-class California family. Elaine is a single mother whose relationship with her rebellious, difficult daughter Olivia is an emotional minefield. When Olivia, who is in the early stages of pregnancy, is arrested for selling drugs-although all she did was drive her boyfriend, an illegal Mexican immigrant, to meet his contact-both women come face to face with the realities of the law, which gives the judge little leeway in handing down a sentence. During Olivia's arrest, arraignment, and trial, and especially after the birth of her granddaughter, Elaine realizes that she has been given a second chance to forge a loving connection with Olivia. Although Waldman is clearly no fan of mandatory minimums, she follows the dictates of every good writing teacher by showing, not telling, readers the results of this misguided law. A good choice for all fiction collections.-Nancy Pearl, Washington Ctr. for the Book, Seattle Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Waldman departs from her relatively lighthearted "Mommy Track" mysteries with this politically charged, emotionally complex novel. Olivia, in her early 20s and living with her illegally immigrated Mexican boyfriend in Oakland, CA, identifies with a number of radical causes. Her pharmacist mother, Elaine, having struggled against her tendency to be free of the burdens of motherhood almost from Olivia's birth, is about to marry her accountant boyfriend, with whom she already leads a judiciously predictable life in a middle-class Berkeley neighborhood. When Olivia's boyfriend participates in a methamphetamine deal, the young woman is arrested as an accomplice. The machinations of federal law pertaining to drug conspiracy, the use of criminal informants, a mother's lifelong connection to her child, and the hothouse of Berkeley's raised consciousness on issues from biracialism to psychotherapy to choice of street slang all come to life. The two women and the men in their lives are fully realized, with both their sympathetic and shameful motivations clearly limned and juxtaposed to create optimum tension. How Olivia copes with her unexpected pregnancy and Elaine's eventual discovery of her own ability to nurture a dependent baby resonate with credible bumps and jerks that ironically enhance the plot's smoothness. Waldman gives readers the opportunity to consider how economics, the law, social mores, and human beings' natural tendencies interact with and counteract one another.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A slow, downbeat story of a young girl arrested for drug trafficking under the federal court system's mandatory minimum sentencing rules. Waldman leaves behind her relatively lightweight Juliet Applebaum mysteries (A PlayDate with Death, 2002, etc.) to tackle a legal nightmare. Although Elaine Goodman has been a painstakingly responsible single parent, motherhood has always been a chore for her, and her daughter Olivia's needy, passionate personality hasn't made the job easier. Now, having dropped out of college, politically idealistic Olivia enjoys thumbing her nose at Elaine's hard-won bourgeois respectability. (After working her way through pharmacy school, Elaine now owns a store in Berkeley and lives with Arthur, a stereotypical bloodless accountant.) Working as a waitress, Olivia lives with Jorge, who arrived on her doorstep after they'd had a fling in Mexico that Olivia had assumed was over. Not really in love, she remains with him in part out of guilt, in part because it galls Elaine. Meanwhile, Jorge, who's been expelled from his Mexican university for political actions and feels humiliated by his inability as an illegal immigrant to support Olivia, makes the desperate decision to participate in a drug deal. Olivia discovers his involvement when the bartender from her restaurant leaves him a mysterious message. Although she passes the information on to Jorge, she begs him not to participate. One thing leads to another and suddenly police are knocking down her door and arresting Olivia for conspiracy. Worse, she soon realizes she's pregnant. At first Elaine, thanks partly to cold and unfeeling Arthur, resists helping Olivia, but as prison becomes an inevitability, Elaine's heartopens while Olivia finds a new calm maturity. It doesn't hurt that Olivia's lawyer is the handsome half-African-American, half-Jewish Izaya Feingold-Upchurch. Olivia's final statement at her sentencing hearing is a no-holds-barred indictment of the evils of mandatory minimum and the absurdity of the current drug laws. Waldman explores the mother-daughter relationship with a sure touch, but her didactic political stance is wearying. First printing of 50,000; author tour. Agent: Mary Evans/Mary Evans Literary Agency
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781402203138
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks
  • Publication date: 9/1/2004
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 797,838
  • Product dimensions: 5.13 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.93 (d)

Meet the Author

Ayelet Waldman

Ayelet Waldman is the author of the Mommy-Track Mysteries series, and is an adjunct professor at the Boalt Hall School of Law at UC Berkeley. She lives in Berkeley, California, with her husband, Michael Chabon, and their four children.


Some writers make it all look too easy. Take Ayelet Waldman, for example. The first novel she ever wrote -- heck, the first piece of creative writing she ever attempted -- was not only published, but it launched the successful Mommy-Track mystery series. Six years and eight novels later, Waldman is still wowing fans and critics alike while occasionally moving into more serious territory.

Waldman is most famous for her witty Mommy-Track mysteries, which follow the adventures of Juliet Applebaum. Like her creator, Juliet Applebaum is a former-public defender now playing the role of stay-at-home mom Unlike Waldman, Juliet breaks up her days of parenting with a little amateur sleuthing on the side. Waldman explained the origin of her beloved series during an interview at UC Berkley in 2004. "They grew out of this period in my life when I had left the public defender's office and I was staying home; I started writing them to keep myself entertained."

The novel that Waldman essentially wrote on a self-entertaining lark -- Nursery Crimes -- became the first in a series of lighthearted mysteries that clearly struck a chord among the writer's peers. "I think they kind of hit the market at a time that there were a lot of women like me," Waldman explained. "A lot of ex-lawyers, ex-doctors, ex-CEOs of companies who were finding themselves straight from the boardroom to the sandbox and kind of going crazy, so there was a ready audience for people who were not necessarily all that fulfilled by making homemade play-dough, but nonetheless realized where they were gonna be for the next couple of years."

After the initial four books in the Mommy-Track series (which included such tongue-in-cheek titles as The Big Nap and A Playdate With Death), Waldman decided to use her newfound literary success as an opportunity to try her hand at a non-series novel. "The more I wrote," she said, "the more I realized that [writing] was something that I really loved to do and I wanted to do more with it. I wanted to grow as a writer and I wanted to start writing more serious fiction." Daughter's Keeper, a tale that sheds some critical light on the War on Drugs, revealed that she was more than capable of handling heavier subject matter. As Publishers Weekly noted: "Waldman's passion and affection for her characters shines through."

Having broken into a new realm of writing, Waldman then delivered two more installments in the Juliet Applebaum adventures before penning her second non-series novel. Like all of her previous works, Love and Other Impossible Pursuits addresses Waldman's favorite subject, motherhood, but this time around she also touches on the grittier issues of grief and death. Once again, Waldman's foray outside of her popular series has proved a resounding success. In Chelsea Cain's laudatory review in The New York Times, she described Love and Other Impossible Pursuits as "a romantic, shocking and sometimes painful page-turner does the unthinkable: it actually says something new and interesting about women, families and love."

While more Mommy-Track mysteries are likely on the way from the prolific Waldman, the side roads she has taken thus far confirm that she is a writer willing to defy expectations.

In addition...
Waldman is also noted for the controversy that followed the publication of her 2005 essay "Motherlove." The essay, first published in the anthology Because I Said So: 33 Mothers Write About Children, Sex, Men, Aging, Faith, Race and Themselves, sparked a heated national debate about the nature of love, marriage, and motherhood.

Good To Know

Some interesting outtakes from our interview with Waldman:

"My children are my inspiration. I write about mothers, and about maternal ambivalence. No matter what I set out to do, it seems, I end up writing about that. My four kids have veto power on anything I write about them, but the only time it's ever been exercised is when my eight-year-old told me never to write about breastfeeding him ever again, as long as he and I both walked the earth."

"My husband and I both edit one another's work. Nothing leaves the house that the other hasn't gone over with a fine-toothed comb.

"Nursery Crimes, my first murder mystery, was the first piece of fiction -- the first piece of creative writing -- I ever did.

"I have no hobbies, other than reading. I love to read, and on my web site I keep a log of every book I read, along with a few words about the book and about what I thought. Check it out at www.ayeletwaldman.com

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    1. Hometown:
      Berkeley, California
    1. Date of Birth:
      December 11, 1964
    2. Place of Birth:
      Jerusalem, Israel
    1. Education:
      Wesleyan University, 1986; Harvard Law School, 1991
    2. Website:

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 13 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 12, 2008

    A very nice surprise!

    I got this at the used book store. The back didn't say anything about the plot, so I bought it based on cover and title. When I first started the book, I didn't think it was going to be very good. After about 50 pages, it really developed into a great book. I could picture each character perfectly and the plot captured me. It was all very believable and I couldn't put it down. It would make a great made for TV movie.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2007

    Loved it!

    I loved this book, found it very realistic, and very touching. I too could not put it down and read it very quickly. In the beginning I really didn't like Olivia but really liked her by the end, her character changed a lot I thought. I would definitely recommend this.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2007

    A reviewer

    An example of how a Mother never stops being a Mother.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2006

    Best In Awhile

    This book was incredible. It had me crying, laughing, and shaking my head in disgust. It's an intimate portrayl of the war on drugs and gives us valueable insight into how our society works. This was quite honestly the best book I may have ever read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2006

    Best book in awhile

    This book was AMAZING! I absoultely loved it. I read it in two days and couldn't put it down. The storyline is great and realistic. And best of all, the ending is realistic! I would recommend this book to everyone. It's eye-opening, warms your heart, angers you, makes you sad, brings you happiness...It's one of the, if not THE, best book I've ever read!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 16, 2003


    I really enjoyed this powerful mother - daughter story. The degree of life altering trouble that resulted from such innocent activity was truely sobering. It could have been anyones nightmare and especially any parent could identify with the fear and pain.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2014

    Couldnt put it down

    Realistic and interesting story of how life events can change a person. Each character seemed to transform in this thought provoking story. Good read!

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    Posted September 29, 2009

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    Posted April 12, 2015

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    Posted June 9, 2010

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