Book review: A Family Daughter by Maile Meloy

Traditional stories have a beginning, a middle and an end, and while A Family Daughter is supposedly about a traditional family, the telling is not so safe.

For a start, it features the same characters as author Maile Meloy’s first novel Liars and Saints, except they have completely different fates in A Family Daughter.

It’s the summer of 1979, and seven-year-old Abby is ill with chicken pox. What happens that summer will affect her life, and the lives of all her family for years to come.

A Family Daughter doesn’t have a traditional narrative – there’s no problem presented that needs to be solved, no life dream the protagonist needs to take steps to complete, no quest to go on.

Instead, it’s a story about life, and love, and family. It’s almost a collection of the everyday happenings of family life, with events linked together by their effect on other events and other people.

The story follows Abby through college, into adult life. The reader travels with Abby from her home in California, to university, to Argentina, back to California. And as we travel to these places, we get to know more of the people she interacts with.

It has some soapy elements, in particular with scenes involving the beautiful and flighty Saffron, but I enjoyed these slightly tabloid-esque moments in the novel.

This is a beautifully crafted book which flows from one chapter to the next, even though they can be set hundreds of miles apart and feature a completely different set of characters. But the emotion that runs through the whole book is constant, and what happens to every character, even the ones introduced in the last third of the book, matter.

A Family Daughter raises questions about truth, and fiction – as Abby writes a book about her family life that’s not quite her family life – and what happens when lines blur between the two, and what can be trusted and what can’t.

An irresistible read, A Family Daughter shows how every person in your life leaves a shadow, no matter how brief the encounter with them.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. A beautifully crafted book from chap to chapter sounds great


  2. I recommend reading Liars and Saints by the same author, or her collection of short stories, Half in Love, which is just gorgeous.

    Thanks for stopping by.



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