The Good Daughter by Alexandra Burt, 398 pages, Berkley, February 7th 2017, ISBN: 0451488113, Format: Paperback, Genre:Contemporary Women/Suspense. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.
Review by Leigh Holland.
Our mothers nurture us, feed us, clothe us, shelter us. These amazing women love us, teach us, and would do anything to protect us. Sure, we can all look back at certain instances where mother may not have done right, where she could’ve done better by us, or in some situations she may even have been wrong. But we forgive our mothers their faux pas. Somebody had to raise us and who’s to say anyone else would’ve done any better? Knowing our own flaws and inner teenage turmoil, could anyone else have done better? Even if deep down we think maybe someone else could’ve, nobody else did. We love her in return. We forgive her. We’re good daughters.
This is the story of a good daughter named Dahlia. All her life, she and her mother, Memphis, have lived off the grid, taking jobs for cash, homeschooling, and staying in motels or the car. Finally, when she was a bit older, her mother rented a house in Aurora and they settled down. Memphis took odd jobs for cash, like tending the elderly or cleaning homes of the affluent. Dahlia often wondered why she didn’t go to school until they settled in Aurora. Memphis told her it was because of ‘paperwork’. Once Dahlia grew up and wanted to go to college, she couldn’t apply for financial aid because Memphis refused to complete the paperwork. Memphis offered to pay cash for classes at the local community college instead. Dahlia left and lived the same sort of life her mom had- living and working off the grid, paying cash for everything and never acquiring credit. Finally, Dahlia decided she’d had enough and she wanted some answers. Why didn’t she have a social security number? Why had they moved around so much? Where’s her birth certificate? The deeper Dahlia digs, the darker the dirt she dredges up.
What makes someone a good mother? Can the protective urge be taken too far? Do mothers use ‘the good of the child’ as an excuse to act selfishly? What makes someone a good daughter? To whom does a good daughter owe her loyalty in the end? Are there things a mother can do that a daughter can’t forgive? These are some of the questions The Good Daughter brings to the fore. My favorite character was Dahlia. At one point, Memphis asks her “Have you ever been in the eye of a storm?” It’s sad that Memphis doesn’t see that Dahlia has always been at the eye of the storm and Memphis is the person who placed her there.
I enjoyed reading this novel. It had a series of suspenseful moments that kept me turning its pages. I felt there were easier ways for the character Quinn to get what she wanted most and I didn’t understand why she never considered those options. In the end, I would’ve made the same decision as Dahlia about her mother. I would’ve shared her ambivalent feelings. I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy complex relationships between female characters and a suspenseful sequence of events.
This book can be found at The Good Daughter.