Juno's Daughters: A Novel

Juno's Daughters: A Novel

4.1 8
by Lise Saffran

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Love takes center stage when a single mother and her teenage daughters play Juno, Iris and Ceres in a summer production of The Tempest.

Jenny Alexander has sought refuge from a troubled past on a tiny, verdant island, off the coast of Washington state. Surrounded by the cold water of the Puget Sound, she does her best to raise her girls, innocent


Love takes center stage when a single mother and her teenage daughters play Juno, Iris and Ceres in a summer production of The Tempest.

Jenny Alexander has sought refuge from a troubled past on a tiny, verdant island, off the coast of Washington state. Surrounded by the cold water of the Puget Sound, she does her best to raise her girls, innocent Frankie, and thrill-seeking Lilly, in a tight-knit community of eccentrics and dreamers.

The island bursts open each summer with the arrival of actors leading the annual Shakespeare production. A handsome thespian from New York reawakens Jenny to long-buried desires. As the intensity of rehearsals builds toward the live run of The Tempest, a potent mixture of actors, islanders and tourists, besotted by verse and swept up in the romance of the theater, spills the enchantment of the play into the lives of the players.

When Jenny finds her daughters caught up in a "brave new world" of love and heartbreak, she is ultimately thrust into a command performance that will resonate in all their lives.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In Saffran's wonderfully immersive debut, a summer Shakespeare production brings new life, love, and drama to the sleepy Pacific Northwest island of San Juan. Islander Jenny Alexander finds her interest unexpectedly piqued by Andre, a handsome, charismatic actor taking part in this year's production. Jenny is not alone in her admiration; her beautiful 17-year-old daughter Lilly notices Andre as well. While younger daughter Frankie wrestles with typical adolescent traumas, the family of three get drawn into the world of The Tempest and begin to examine their lives in ways they never expected, with potentially profound results. Readers will find themselves caught up in the isolated island communities of the Puget Sound, which reflect the Shakespearean themes without losing their own unique expressiveness. Saffran's prose is delicate and precise, and her focus on the Bard reveals an obvious affection for the English language. She has created an excellent protagonist in Jenny, balancing her growth with that of her daughters, and takes care in giving them all enough room to grow. (Jan.)
Library Journal
Jenny, a single mom of two teenage daughters, lives on San Juan Island off the coast of Washington State and is gearing up for the annual summer theater festival. This year, it's a production of Shakespeare's The Tempest, and Jenny finds herself getting involved with one of the professional actors brought in from New York. Trouble is, her elder daughter, Lily, likes him as well. To add to the stress of the summer, Jenny's younger daughter, 13-year-old Frankie, decides to escape from all of the literal and figurative drama and runs away to Seattle. VERDICT Debut novelist Saffran paints a nice portrait of a close-knit, creative community and all the quirks that go along with it. Shakespearean references abound, which makes for a treat for literary fiction fans, yet it's done with a light enough touch that those unfamiliar with The Tempest or other such works won't feel left out. For fans of introspective women's fiction, such as Elin Hildebrand's family novels.—Rebecca Vnuk, Forest Park, IL
Kirkus Reviews

Saffran's tale of an unconventional mother and her two daughters takes readers to the islands of the Pacific Northwest.

The Juno in the title is Jennifer "Jenny" Alexander, mother to 17-year-old Lilly and 13-year-old Frankie. Lilly, gorgeous, rebellious and aware of her own sexuality, is a recent high-school graduate working her way not through college but through all the men on tiny San Juan Island. San Juan, which is only reachable by ferry from the mainland, is part of a chain of small islands where life is still stuck in the peacenik hippie years. In fact, most of the residents of San Juan are aging hippies themselves. Dale, an unapologetic dirty old man, and his wife, Peg, each year bring a Shakespearean play to the islands. They stage parties where guests bring hash brownies and are famous for holding a rehearsal in which the cast appears in the nude. Jenny, a weaver who barely squeaks out a living, fled to San Juan when her rock guitarist husband, Monroe, beat her one time too many. The girls have grown up in a time warp on the island, without television or computers. But Frankie suffers from the looming loss of her best friend, Phoenix, who is moving to the mainland to escape the isolation. Lilly and Jenny, meanwhile, both lust after the same man, an actor slated to play Trinculo in The Tempest. Lilly, dreadlocked and occasionally stoned, puts a full court press on Trinculo, but he prefers Jenny. The three Alexander women are cast in the production, which opens the door for emotional drama and much second-guessing. Saffran's prose is wonderful, but her characters wax self-indulgent at times: Jenny congratulates herself that her children only use organic drugs instead of the hard stuff like kids on the mainland. The author also inexplicably plops a chapter written in script form in the center of the book, an unnecessary distraction that breaks the rhythm of the writing.

This debut novel will resonate with some and make others want to grab the main character, shake her by the shoulders and tell her to grow up already.

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Lise Saffran is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, where she was an Iowa Arts Fellow. Her short fiction has appeared in a variety of literary magazines. She lives in Columbia, Missouri, with her husband and two sons.

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Juno's Daughters 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Yep but you said no Waveblaze
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
BigThyme More than 1 year ago
As a 25 year old woman who is very clise with my momit was extremely difficult for me to get through this book. I really did not like the idea of mom and daughter after the same guy. I also know that my mom would never be able to be with a man that kissed me first. Lilly was annoying to read and it was weird how everytime she did something promiscuios (sp?) her mom got oddly proud and still hooked up with the same guy her daughter did. I just thought the ehole book was strange and awkward. I would not recommend it.
NorthwestAvidReader More than 1 year ago
A gentle, beautifully written story of love, all kinds of love – friendship, romantic love, love of place and community, love of Shakespearean theater, and most of all, a mother's love for her daughters. Lise Saffran brings lush San Juan Island to vivid life, and in precise, evocative language, she draws the reader into the complicated lives of her characters, who seemed real to me. It was as if I could take the ferry out to the island and meet every one of them, watch them act in The Tempest, and then we could all sit down to dinner together. The bittersweet, hopeful ending left me eagerly anticipating Ms. Saffran’s next novel.
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EC_Pura More than 1 year ago
I started reading this book on a Monday night, forced myself to go to work on Tuesday morning, and finished reading it at 1am on Wednesday morning. If you have a woman in your life that you love and if you love literature, you MUST read this book.
harstan More than 1 year ago
On the San Juan Island in Puget Sound, single mom Jenny Alexander raises her two daughters, seventeen years old Lilly and thirteen years old Frankie. Jenny left her physically abusive husband Monroe while still nursing her youngest. She does need a man permanently in her life; though local carpenter David would like her to reconsider, as Monroe's beatings still linger in her mind. Every year the Islanders host a summer theater festival. This year The Tempest is the main event with a cast of professional actors from New York, Los Angeles and Ashland, Oregon. Jenny and Lilly are attracted to Andre the New York actor. Frankie has her own issues, but is tired of the family version of the Tempest. She runs off to Seattle, which turns the Alexander raging storm into a monster. With super interwoven nods to the Bard, Juno's Daughters is an excellent family drama that explores some of the themes of the classic play in a modern context. For instance, the relationships between mom and daughters are brilliantly scrutinized with each holding certain power over the other, but Jenny as the adult rules. The cast makes the tale as the Alexander family star in a terrific contemporary as a "tempest in a teapot" is brewing. Harriet Klausner