Hurricane season in New Hampshire brings about an unexpected aftermath in the year 1949. Nine months later, on July 4, 1950, two girls are born to two very different families living in this little community. The families feel a connection because of this event, although the two are very different and seemingly have nothing in common—except, of course, for the two “birthday sisters.” The girls are Ruth Plank and Dana Dickerson.
The Planks are a farming family. Edwin and Connie already have four daughters. Val and George Dickerson are capricious drifters—she is an artist and he is constantly searching for the pot of gold. They have one son, Ray, who is handsome and appealing to girls.
Annual get-togethers happen for awhile, mostly initiated by Connie Plank, who seems strangely obsessed with the “birthday sisters,” constantly commenting to Ruth about the many admirable qualities she sees in Dana.
Ruth feels oddly out of place in her family, and when her mother looks at her, she sees disappointment in her face. For years, she feels as though her interests and talents do not “fit” into her life. She sketches compulsively, creating her vision of the world. When she is older, she wins a scholarship to art school. And always, in the back of her mind, is her strange fascination for Ray Dickerson, who kissed her once at the farm stand the Planks run every year, and which the Dickersons visit occasionally.
Dana, a realist, is certainly out of sync with her dreaming parents. Her feet are solidly on the ground and she seeks a life that honors that need. Eventually she becomes a scientist. She also discovers other tendencies that lead to an alternative lifestyle.
Throughout The Good Daughters: A Novel, told alternately in the voices of Ruth and Dana, an invisible cloud hovers over the characters—an odd sense of something not quite right. While it was not difficult to figure out what that might be, the actual revelation was much more unexpected than I had imagined.
I loved how the author depicted their lives against the backdrop of the times, from the lull of the fifties and the rabble-rousing sixties, including a trip to Woodstock, to the economic difficulties of the decades that came after. We could almost experience the lives of each family, from the struggles of the farmers to the fragmentation of the drifter family.
It is a tale of lives moving along parallel paths, occasionally intersecting, with such a common theme connecting them that inevitably, the connections will stand out in stark relief and the unimaginable will become the truth that sets them free.