Occasionally you’re lucky enough to find a book you just can’t put down. Its gripping plot grabs hold of you and, chapter by chapter, propels you along. Equally compelling is that rare title where the action isn’t paramount, but the key players are so real you find yourself reading into the wee hours. The Good Daughters, by Joyce Maynard, falls into the second category with its unforgettable characters.
Two girls, Dana Dickerson and Ruth Plank, are born on the same day in the same hospital to neighbors. Despite their proximity, the families couldn’t be more different. The Dickersons are like seeds that can’t seem to take hold. Often ignoring her two children, Val is consumed with art projects, while husband George constantly leaves home to chase yet another “get rich” scheme. Edwin and Connie Plank, on the other hand, live a stable, God-fearing (and some might say boring) life providing for their five daughters on a farm passed down the family tree for generations.
Although very close to her father Edwin, Ruth has never bonded with her mother. And, while her four sisters are dark, short and solidly built, she is growing into a willowy and fair young woman. Dana, likewise, feels like an outsider. In a family of dreamers, her two feet are solidly planted on the ground.
With nothing in common, Dana and Ruth hardly acknowledge each other’s presence. Connie, however, insists on referring to the girls as “birthday sisters.” For their yearly vacation, the Planks drive to wherever the Dickersons have settled, only to encounter the same scenario--George is always absent and Val, never welcoming. Ruth is mystified by her mother’s almost obsessive interest in the Dickersons, but being smitten with Ray, Dana's beautiful brother, she never complains.
Years later, Ruth and Ray bump into each other at Woodstock. Their chance meeting eventually ignites into an all-consuming passion, a passion so powerful it illuminates a long-buried secret that threatens to destroy both families.