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The Good Daughters: A Novel

The Good Daughters: A Novel

3.7 193
by Joyce Maynard

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The bestselling author of Labor Day returns with a spellbinding novel about friendship, family secrets, and the strange twists of fate that shape our lives

The Good Daughters

They were born on the same day, in the same small New Hampshire hospital, into families that could hardly have been less


The bestselling author of Labor Day returns with a spellbinding novel about friendship, family secrets, and the strange twists of fate that shape our lives

The Good Daughters

They were born on the same day, in the same small New Hampshire hospital, into families that could hardly have been less alike.

Ruth Plank is an artist and a romantic with a rich, passionate, imaginative life. The last of five girls born to a gentle, caring farmer and his stolid wife, she yearns to soar beyond the confines of the land that has been her family's birthright for generations.

Dana Dickerson is a scientist and realist whose faith is firmly planted in the natural world. Raised by a pair of capricious drifters who waste their lives on failed dreams, she longs for stability and rootedness.

Different in nearly every way, Ruth and Dana share a need to make sense of who they are and to find their places in a world in which neither has ever truly felt she belonged. They also share a love for Dana's wild and beautiful older brother, Ray, who will leave an indelible mark on both their hearts.

Told in the alternating voices of Ruth and Dana, The Good Daughters follows these "birthday sisters" as they make their way from the 1950s to the present. Master storyteller Joyce Maynard chronicles the unlikely ways the two women's lives parallel and intersect—from childhood and adolescence to first loves, first sex, marriage, and parenthood; from the deaths of parents to divorce, the loss of home, and the loss of a beloved partner—until past secrets and forgotten memories unexpectedly come to light, forcing them to reevaluate themselves and each other.

Moving from rural New Hampshire to a remote island in British Columbia to the '70s Boston art-school scene, The Good Daughters is an unforgettable story about the ties of home and family, the devastating force of love, the healing power of forgiveness, and the desire to know who we are.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Two families, the Planks and the Dickersons, are mysteriously entwined in this exquisite novel that centers on decades of life at a New Hampshire farm. Youngest daughters Ruth Plank and Dana Dickerson, born on the same day in the same hospital, take turns narrating the struggles they face as children. Ruth feels a coldness from her mother; Dana is unsettled by her kooky parents constantly uprooting her and her brother Ray. Regardless, the Planks pay a yearly visit to the Dickersons no matter where they've ended up living. As the girls come of age, Ruth takes an interest in art, sex, and Dana's brother, Ray, with whom she later reunites, at Woodstock, in a swirl of drugs and mud. Meanwhile, Dana realizes that her desires are directed toward women and sets off to pursue agricultural studies at a university, where she meets Clarice, an assistant professor. As time goes by, the floundering Plank Farm is in danger of being seized by Ruth's former boyfriend, a man who has had his eye on the land for years. As Ruth and Dana pursue love, contemplate children, and search for home, the truth of what unites their families is finally--at long last--revealed, in this beautifully written book. (Sept.)
Elizabeth Berg
“I am hard pressed to think of anything I’ve read that more honestly and eloquently expresses both the perils and the pleasures of love. Joyce Maynard has outdone herself in this beautifully written story you’ll find hard to put down, and impossible to forget.”
Luanne Rice
“ THE GOOD DAUGHTERS, weaves a story of choices and events so intimate I felt I was part of it. The novel is wrenching, the emotions radiant, and will leave readers transformed.”
Jodi Picoult
“Joyce Maynard is in top-notch form with Labor Day. From the perfect pitch of a teenaged boy narrator to the eloquent message of how loneliness can bind people together, this is simply a novel you cannot miss.”
Labor Day is suffused with tenderness, dreaminess and love . . . first and foremost a page-turner . . . [it] puts back together the world that it destroys . . . .you definitely need to get a box of tissues.”
People (Four Stars)
“[The] story is moving and fast-moving, affirming Maynard’s reputation as a master storyteller and showing her to be a passionate humanist with a gifted ear and heart. . . . Maynard illuminates the human experience.”
Katha Pollitt
“Riveting and disturbing.”
“But apart from being a successful thriller, this book is a fascinating portrait of what causes a family to founder, and how much it can cost to put it back on the right path. ”
New Orleans Times-Picayune
“Beautifully written.”
Washington Post
“It is a testament to Maynard’s skill that she makes this ominous setup into a convincing and poignant coming-of-age tale.”
Smart Money
“Maynard details Henry’s roller-coaster emotions for Frank – he is both jealous and grateful – and his mother’s emotional journeys – with skill and tenderness for the uncertain willingness of broken hearts to mend. The poignant results are revealing of our ability to forgive and to grow.”
“Maynard deftly pulls the reader into the fragile lives of these three vulnerable characters and their preordained march toward the novel’s denouement. A marvelous read-perfect for one long sitting-this novel leaves the reader wishing it didn’t ever have to end.”
“Labor Day is both a coming-of-age story and a love story- a tale of profound loss, redemption and soul searching that is not to be missed.”
“Labor Day is a startling novel of love, friendship, trust, treachery, betrayal, and the deep lessons that we learn in life.... It’s a powerful, poignant mix in the hands of author Joyce Maynard and a novel no one should miss.”
Wichita Falls
“Maynard spins a fascinating story of damaged people seeking the one thing they long for – love. ”
USA Today
“Maynard offers fresh insight into what constitutes family.”
Associated Press Staff
“Maynard is in top form in this tale of love, betrayal, and forgiveness.”
St. Petersburg Times
“The novel is an extended meditation on the nature of love, grief and loneliness.... Maynard has created an ensemble of characters that will sneak into your heart, and warm it while it breaks. ”
Salt Lake City Tribune
“Maynard gets inside the head of an adolescent boy who is grappling with his own identity and the mysteries of sex (while revealing the secrets of making perfect pie crust). ”
Newark Star Ledger
“Maynard’s inventive coming-of-age tale indelibly captures the anxiety and confusion inherent in adolescence, while the addition of a menacing element of suspense makes this emotionally fraught journey that much more harrowing.”
Record Searchlight (Redding
“Maynard...is in top form in this tale of love, betrayal and forgiveness.”
Detroit News
“Unique and chilling.”
Arizona Republic
“Surprisingly moving.”
Hartford Courant
“A haunting and hopeful story.”
Providence Journal
The Good Daughters shows Maynard’s strengths once again—particularly in vivid descriptions of farm life, geographies, and relationships of all kinds. Passions and psychological changes in a character over time ring most true.”
“Maynard’s spare prose packs a rich emotional punch...a can’t put-it-down mystery.”
Entertainment Weekly on THE GOOD DAUGHTERS
“[Maynard] weav(es) a knotty tale of family secrets, told in the alternating voices of her likable main characters.”
“Maynard is a clever storyteller.”
“Vividly rendered.”
“An impressive writer...with a fine sense of time, of place, of humor.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune on THE GOOD DAUGHTERS
“Unexpected and heartbreaking…. Arguably [Maynard’s] best work yet.”
AfterEllen.com on THE GOOD DAUGHTERS
“In addition to being a beautiful and engaging story, Maynard deftly captures Dana’s struggle to come to terms with her sexuality in the midst of her family’s instability. And her relationship with Clarice is one of the strongest in the novel. Highly recommended. ”
“An evocative story . . . [Maynard] consistently brings emotional authenticity to the long arc of her characters’ lives and to the joy and loss they experience. A profoundly moving chronicle of the primacy of family connection.”

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Meet the Author

Joyce Maynard is the author of eight previous novels, including To Die For, Labor Day, The Good Daughters, and four books of nonfiction. Her bestselling memoir, At Home in the World, has been translated into sixteen languages. She lives in California.

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The Good Daughters: A Novel 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 193 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
On July 4, 1950 in New Hampshire, Ruth Plank and Dana Dickerson are born at the same hospital. Ruth is the youngest of five sisters; whereas her father is a caring farmer who loves his girls including his "Hurricane baby"; her mother is distant. Dana wants stability as her parents drag her and her older brother Ray with them as they follow capricious dreams into one disaster after another. The families remain friends as once a year the Plank brood visits the wandering Dickerson clan regardless of where the latter resides for the moment. Artistic Ruth the romantic reunites with Ray in a haze of sex and drugs at Woodstock. Dana dreams of love with a woman as she becomes an agricultural student where she meets assistant Professor Clarice. As each woman settles into their career of an artist and a scientist, they dream of finding a loving mate and raising children, but also need to know the family link between their parents. This is an intriguing drama that sweeps through the decades as told by the rotating perspectives of the "Birth" sisters. The fully developed cast enhances the appealing story line that owned by Ruth and Dana as fans will be swept up in their tales and like them with a need to know what connects two families. Joyce Maynard provides a brilliant baby boomer historical saga. Harriet Klausner
Girlysailor More than 1 year ago
The book tells a tale that was pretty easy to figure out...and I found myself rushing to the end to see if it ended the way I thought it would. It did. Simple read..not hard to keep track of the characters since they were a little one-dimensional. If you have some time, and are looking for something easy to mentally digest...this is the book.
Pea70 More than 1 year ago
Like other reviewers, I found that I had it "figured out" 1/2 way through the book, however, the "why" of the situation was why I kept reading - I really really wanted to know WHY and HOW it happened. While it wasn't the best book I've read this year, it was one that I couldn't put down and am still thinking about days later. Isn't that what an author wants their book to be? This was the first I've read by this author and I will add her others to my to read pile.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I figure out what happened in the beginning of the story and I think the author wanted us to know. I liked the book and found that I couldn't put it down. I wanted to know how and why it happened. I was pleasantly surprised because it does have a little twist in end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed this well written, itneresting story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this after my mom recommended it. Keeps you guessing until the end.
rnks1109 More than 1 year ago
I greatly enjoyed this novel.. the story line kept me engaged and although it was heartbreaking it was also unique and lovely.
bluebirdfarmlady More than 1 year ago
You'll get to know each member of two families. Their personalities, talents, hopes and dreams come through in as the plot unfolds. However, don't think you've figured the whole story out as there are some interesting twists and turns. It's a great read!
ValourIL More than 1 year ago
truly a beautiful story
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
i regret buying this book. just check it out from a library if it seems interesting to you. it was a less than great book. not extemely terrible.
Christine_Emming More than 1 year ago
A two-sided tale of girlhood that lurches clumsily into womanhood from the perspectives of oddly matched "birthday sisters." Two women born in a small town hospital on the same day, Dana and Ruth couldn't be more dissimilar. Wrapped in the Plank family's farm life, Ruth's life is driven by the seasons, dependable, regular. Taller and thinner with a strong artistic bend, Ruth struggles to fit in with her four practical sisters and gain the approval of her often-dour mother, Connie. The sunspot in her life is father Edwin, whose love of plant life is only overshadowed by his love for his girls. Connie often chastisement Ruth using Dana as a guidepost, hoping Ruth might better mirror her birthday sister. Edwin quietly buffers Ruth against Connie's aversion with his stolid support, ambling about the property with her in tow, spending time with her more than with his other daughters, encouraging her interest in art. Stuck in a life as predictable as a hailstorm, Dana organizes her family's bills, pays their rent and covers other practicalities that her parents don't seem to recognize as important. While her father, George, follows his next big idea down disappearing trailheads, awaiting paydays that never come. Dana's mother Valerie paints in her studio to the point of ignoring the rest of her life, existing rather vacantly on the outskirts of motherhood. Left on their own, Dana and her older brother Ray, a sensitive soul who excels at everything he tries, dream of leaving home. It's Connie Plank who names Ruth and Dana as "birthday sisters," insisting they maintain a close-knit relationship for that reason alone, despite their divergent interests. The Planks only vacation each year is a quick visit to the Dickerson home, wherever that might be, and in return the Dickersons visit the Plank family farm stand each summer, around the girls' July birthdays. Remarkably, it's on one of these farm visits that Edwin Plank takes an interest in Dana Dickerson as an unofficial understudy, sharing his farming know-how built up from six generations, which leads to Dana's burgeoning interest in farming herself, and, ultimately, connects her to Ruth in a way their shared birthday never did. A tender, compelling read, Maynard has interwoven the girls' stories beautifully. Two heartfelt portrayals of the outsider that will be easily enjoyed - even by readers who aren't - and embraced by book clubs everywhere.
sdowner More than 1 year ago
I have read other books by Joyce Maynard ... but I have to say this one was the BEST!!! I couldn't put this book down!
TheStoryWoman More than 1 year ago
The Good Daughters-Two sides of the same coin, or should I say strawberry plants? (Once you read the book, you'll know what I mean.)Through Joyce Maynard's insightful writing, I found the off-shoots, Dana and Ruth, to be not only good daughters, but also strong women, each with a powerful belief in herself that held true through times of duress as well as triumph. I would have welcomed both of them as my daughters and loved each girl expressly for the very uniqueness of her character and spirit. At times, I wanted to look directly into the faces of the girls' mothers, Connie and Val, and ask, "What the heck are your problems? Can't you like your daughters if they aren't the spitting image of you?" From the beginning, however, I admired and genuinely liked Connie's husband, Edwin Plank, the solid farmer, with his knack for plant propagation, for his seeming fair mindedness and acceptance that things were as they should be. But were they? Who was the elephant in the room that everyone stepped around for decades? Maynard portrayed in Plank an honorable and understanding personality, but I began to see, as the story unfurled, that something was amiss. This man, this father, carefully placed selected strawberry shoots, spacing them evenly around the mother plant, like rays of the sun, letting them take root for the next season. (But was he as careful with the women in his life?) This act may be best for raising strawberries to be their finest, but I came away believing mothers and daughters of the human variety need to settle into their own nests-leaving Edwin's husbandry for the cultivation of plants and livestock would have lessened the grief and confusion that dominated the lives of two families. Maynard does know how to tell a story depicting the human condition as few others. She makes you squirm a little, and think a lot, and, even though you may think you know exactly what's going on, you won't until she thinks it is time to let you know. This engaging tale will stay with you long after you have read the last sentence of The Good Daughters.
bridget3420 More than 1 year ago
One word can sum up how I feel about this book, WOW! Yes, the word has to be capitalized to get the point across. The Good Daughters should not be missed! If you are a woman, you will love this book. Joyce knows how to get a reader hooked for life. I can't wait for her next book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
LynnLD More than 1 year ago
This book, The Good Daughters, by Joyce Maynard made me put off other tasks because I had to see what would happen to Ruth Plank and Dana Dickerson. The girls were born on the same day in 1950 in the same New Hampshire hospital. Connie Plank (Ruth’s mother) insists that the families stay connected which baffles the other family members. Their lifestyles show that they apparently have nothing in common. The Plank family owns a farm and the Dickersons are artistic and always changing locales. The story is told through the eyes of both Ruth and Dana, simultaneously, as they grow into womanhood. When Ruth takes up with the boy from the Dickerson group, her mother goes berserk. Also, each girl feels quite alienated from their mothers. Without giving a spoiler, the many twists and turns will keep the readers on the edge of their seats as they wait for answers to unfold and for all of the mysteries to become crystal clear. I am so glad that I picked up this book. I will be thinking about it for some time to come.
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CathyFitzgerald More than 1 year ago
just OK, thought it was somewhat predictable and moved slow
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
On a Joyce Maynard kick. If u like interesting characters with real life scenarios- put one of her books on ur to read list !
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is my second Joyce Maynard book and she has become one of my favorite storytellers. Sometimes predictable, but always entertaining.