The Murderer’s Daughters by Randy Susan Meyers follows two sisters over four decades of their lives after their father murders their mother. Lulu and Merry are two young girls living in Brooklyn, New York, suffering through their childhood with neglectful and self-involved parents. After their mother kicks their father out of the house, he shows up drunks, kills his wife and attempts to kill Merry and himself. The girls’ father is then sent to prison and they are essentially orphans.
At first Lulu and Merry’s maternal grandmother takes them in and cares for them. After her death, their paternal grandmother is too old and frail to care for them and their Aunt refuses to take them in because they are the daughters of her sister’s murderer and the girls are sent to a home for girls (read: orphanage). After a few years the girls are taken in by a foster family and the book follows them through their angsty teenage years through their adulthood.
Lulu and Merry have very different reactions to their mother’s murder and their father’s incarceration. Lulu is wracked with guilt and believes she could have somehow prevented her mother’s death if she had not let her father in their apartment that day. Lulu wants nothing to do with their father and instructs her younger sister to lie and say their parents were killed in a car accident. Merry dutifully visits her father in prison every other week with her paternal grandmother for years until their grandmother’s death. This difference in how they individually deal with their situation causes friction between Lulu and Merry despite their deep devotion to each other. A wrench is really thrown into their lives when it looks like their father will be able to make parole after 30 years in prison.
I thought this book was exceptionally well written. Neither Lulu nor Merry was perfect and they each had distinct characters and voices. They are individuals who are deeply flawed and deeply affected by their past. Lulu and Merry are relatable and likable, even when you want to shake them for their bad choices or the ways they react to each other. The book was a page turner and thoroughly engrossing. I didn’t want it to end and wanted it to continue to follow Lulu and Merry into their later adulthood and watch their relationship grow and change.
Despite the shocking premise of the book, two girls who are orphaned by a vicious act of domestic violence, it is a gentle book about two girls growing into women with a huge tragedy hanging over their heads. It makes the reader empathize with all those real-life children who are abandoned, orphaned, or stigmatized by the sins of their parents. Meyers’ fiction novel is haunting while being aggressively honest. I highly recommend this book.