Continuing the family saga of her first novel, “Liars and Saints,” Meloy’s second follows Abby Collins from the age of seven, when her feckless mother and sober father separate, to her success as a young novelist. The kernel of the story is a melodrama involving her uncle Jamie, who rescues her first from the boredom of her childhood illness and then, later, from grief after the sudden death of her father. When a mutual sexual attraction develops, though, Abby must learn to rescue herself, which she does mainly by recasting the dilemmas of her extended family as a work of fiction. All this might easily come off as soap opera were Meloy not a wise and astonishing conjurer of convincing realities.
Meloy is stretching, intellectually and artistically, and watching her take risks is often a pleasure. A Family Daughter is not always consistent and not always convincing, but it is ambitious and playful and clever. That's a fair enough literary bargain for any novel, retold or not.
The Washington Post
A Family Daughter roams engrossingly from California to Paris to Buenos Aires in ways that make it a big book as well as a swift, slender, graceful one. And if the speed and gloss of Ms. Meloy's first novel suggested that she might be better suited to short stories, this new book has the deep ramifications of more ambitious fiction.
The New York Times
In evanescent scenes distinguished by clean, wry prose, Meloy observes the Santerre family, whom readers met in 2003's Liars and Saints, from a crafty new angle. The book opens as the deeply Catholic Yvette Santerre frets over her granddaughter, Abby, who has the chicken pox and has been deposited in Yvette's care while her mother, Clarissa, tries to remember what it's like to feel happy. Yvette and Teddy's eldest daughter, Margot, is repressed by her own Catholicism and veering into adultery; Clarissa thinks of her husband, Henry, and daughter, Abby, as "captors" keeping her from realizing her true potential; and happy-go-lucky son Jamie has little ambition beyond his next girlfriend. With Abby at the story's center, the narrative moves forward years in effortless leaps, revealing the secrets and dissatisfactions of all. From Abby's rocky childhood to her bruising young adulthood (her parents divorce; her father is killed in a car accident), she finds solace with Jamie, 12 years her senior. When Abby is 21, uncle and niece fall into an affair, until Jamie is lured away by the bored, rich, chronically unfaithful Saffron, who suffers her own difficult mother crisis in Argentina. Clarissa takes up with a lesbian and confronts her mother with recovered memories; Jamie becomes convinced he's actually Margot's daughter; and dreamy, conflicted Abby writes a roman clef (Liars and Saints!) about them all. Meloy shifts point of view fluently, and though her characters weather all sorts of melodrama, the novel itself feels light-poignant and affecting, meaningful yet somehow weightless. (Feb.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Fans of Meloy's previous novel, Liars and Saints, will be delighted with her latest effort. Meloy returns to the Santerre family, this time focusing on "family daughter" Abby and her emotional relationship with her uncle (or is it cousin?) Jamie. The novel moves from Abby's undergraduate days at the University of California, San Diego, where she grapples with her father's death, to Jamie's liaison with a Paris Hilton-like girlfriend, Saffron. Both Jamie and Abby accompany Saffron on a visit to her socialite mother, Josephine, who has retired to an estate in Argentina. There we meet Josephine's French business manager/lover and Katya, a Hungarian hooker and the mother of Josephine's adopted child. And that's just the beginning. An accomplished storyteller, Meloy weaves together these improbable twists without edging into silliness. She even toys with "reality" when Abby writes and publishes a novel that turns out to be Liars and Saints. This new work is enjoyable on its own, but those who have read Meloy's earlier effort can puzzle whether this book is a sequel or a revision. Highly recommended for popular fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 10/1/05.]-Reba Leiding, James Madison Univ. Libs., Harrisonburg, VA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
A thoroughly original and undeniably brilliant companion piece to Meloy's debut novel, Saints and Liars (2003). Meloy returns to the Senterres, the Catholic California family full of piety, passion and secrets at the center of the earlier novel. This go-'round, the family's passion and piety remain in place, but the secrets, and facts, have changed. The central character is now Yvette and Teddy Senterre's granddaughter Abby. When Abby is barely seven, her self-centered, irresponsible mother Clarissa leaves Abby and Abby's loving father Henry. Abby develops a crush on Uncle Jamie, Clarissa's charming, much younger brother. After Henry dies unexpectedly while in college, Abby falls apart emotionally. She and Jamie, a semi-ne'er-do-well, have a brief incestuous affair. Afterwards, Jamie takes up with Saffron, a neurotic heiress with commitment issues. Abby becomes involved with a teaching assistant, Peter, and begins writing a novel. Meanwhile, she accompanies Jamie and Saffron to Argentina, where Saffron's mother has adopted a Romanian orphan, T.J. When Saffron's mother dies, T.J. turns out to have a mother still very much alive. Jamie then adopts T.J., marries his mother and brings them to California, and when T.J.'s mother disappears for good, Jamie becomes a devoted single father. Abby moves back with Peter and publishes a highly autobiographical novel. Because Abby has changed crucial factual information about who did what to whom, the Santerres tell themselves she has not exposed their secrets, but the book forces them to face deeper truths. Meloy juxtaposes Abby's fictionalized account (Liars and Saints, described in enough detail for readers who have not read it) with the "reality"of this novel. And each novel stands alone; together they pack a seismic wallop.
"Fast-moving and compelling...ambitious and playful and clever."
The Washington Post
"The Santerre family...includes so many appealing personalities, with all the dreams, hopes, and foibles of people we have loved at one time or another."
Los Angeles Times
"Wise and astonishing."
The New Yorker
"A big book as well as a swift, slender, graceful one."
The New York Times
"A seductive, absorbing read."
The Philadelphia Inquirer