Welcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Harper Perennial. Stop by each week to be introduced to a must-read title from one of my favorite imprints. I know you'll be adding many of these books to your wish list.
When I heard Harper Perennial was publishing the paperback edition of Joyce Maynard's The Good Daughters, I knew I had to feature it as an Imprint Friday read. Maynard knows how to create characters, a mood, and a situation that nail you in place until you've finished the novel. That's just what happened to me.
Before I tell you more, take a look at the publisher's summary:
They were born on the same day, in the same small New Hampshire hospital—but Ruth Plank and Dana Dickerson are different in nearly every way.The Good Daughters is a novel told from two viewpoints: Ruth Plank's and Dana Dickerson's. In alternating chapters, told chronologically but in retrospect, we learn how two very different individuals—the birthday sisters—stayed connected for more than half a century. The mystery of what drew these families together starts to become clear about midway through the book, but not everything is revealed, and Ruth and Dana have a way to go before they understand their mothers and fathers and their own life choices.
Ruth is an artist, a romantic with a rich, passionate, imaginative life—the fifth daughter born to a gentle, caring farmer and his stolid wife. Raised by a pair of capricious drifters, Dana is a scientist and realist whose faith is firmly planted in the natural world. From the 1950s to the present, the lives of the “birthday sisters” parallel and oddly intersect, as each struggles to find her place in a world in which she has never truly felt she belonged. Sharing little except a birth date—and a love for Dana’s wild and beautiful older brother, Ray—two virtual strangers will travel alternate paths winding through first love, first sex, marriage, parenthood, divorce, and tragic loss . . . until both are forced to reevaluate themselves and each other when past secrets and forgotten memories unexpectedly come to light.
Maynard brings an authenticity to the women's stories and creates families and characters you can see as real. This is what draws you in. It's because you care about Ruth and Dana that you need to see how they fair. To give you a taste of the novel, here is a paragraph from the beginning (chosen to avoid any hint of a spoiler). Ruth is talking:
Still, my mother insisted on paying visits to the Dickersons whenever we were in town. She'd stop by with baked goods or, depending on the season, corn, or a bowl of our fresh-picked strawberries, with biscuits hot out of the oven for shortcake. ("Knowing Valerie Dickerson," she said, "I wouldn't put it past that woman to use whipped cream in a can." The idea that Val Dickerson might serve her shortcakes with no cream at all—real or fake—seemed more than she could envision.) (p. 10)Spend an afternoon with Ruth and Dana, and your heart will go out them and leave you thinking about what-if.
Here are few other opinions:
- Courtney from Stiletto Storytime writes: "There is something about the way that Maynard writes that draws me in and lulls me gently into a reading place of comfort and peace."
- Joy Tipping, writing for the Dallas News, notes: "In Maynard's gifted hands, every sentence and step seems organic, as if she were just keenly observing these women and taking richly detailed notes on their lives."
- Diane from Bibliophile by the Sea, says: "This is a favorite type of novel for me: a coming of age story, and a story with characters I truly cared about. It's about life, about people longing for love, dealing with loss, and a story about trying to find peace with oneself in a not so perfect world."
Harper Perennial is a featured imprint on Beth Fish Reads. For information about the imprint, please read Erica Barmash's welcome note posted here on June 18, 2010. I encourage you to add your reviews of Harper Perennial books to the review link-up page; it's a great way to discover Good Books for Cool People. And don't miss the The Olive Reader, the Harper Perennial blog.