I am a big fan of emotional novels, where the plot mostly revolves around characters striving for some sort of relational resolution. But, these novels are pretty tricky to deliver both effectively and entertainingly. I don’t know that Daughter fully succeeds here, but the ideas expressed were interesting enough that I carried through with finishing it.
This novel is the story of Mona and her dysfunctional relationship with her father, Paul. Well, truly the entire family is full of dysfunctional relationships. Paul is a writer and a serial philanderer. He left his first wife, Mona’s mother Natasha, when Mona and her older sister were young – of course, he left her for another woman (do men ever really leave for any other reason?). The other woman, Cherry, has two sons of her own, and a daughter she shares with Paul. Cherry is controlling and her daughter Eva is something of an emotional vampire.
Mona longs for a close relationship with her father, which she feels she has never had. Like him, she is a writer, adjacent to fame / prestige. When he has an affair with a younger assistant, she becomes his confidant, and she relishes that position. Of course, that blows up in her face, and her family (primarily Cherry’s side of her family) take the opportunity to blame her. This causes intense emotional backlash in Mona’s life. Eventually, Mona faces grief that resets her position towards the dysfunction of her family.
This is a novel that is mostly about relationships, not so much about plot. The story is told mostly through Mona’s perspective, but occasionally it alternates and we get glimpse into Paul, or her older sister, or Cherry. I think these sections were done well and provided additional depth to the story overall. I appreciate when an author gives something unexpected a try.
As fresh as that was, many of the beats of the story felt a little TOO familiar. You have read about these characters before – the angsty artist with father-issues; the wicked step-mother; the father with a roving eye who can’t decide how to treat his children; the step-siblings at odds. The well-worn beats of the plot made reading this a bit of a slog – despite the fact that the prose was lovely.