The engrossing debut The Murderer’s Daughters is a survival story, if ever there was one—a sturdily written book about the close-knit lives of sisters Lulu and Merry, whose father murders their mother when they are just young children. Yes, it describes the fateful day, but little by little, it also lets you in on a secret: life goes on after events like that, too, and what you do with every minute of it counts.

The book deeply inscribes the 30 years that follow the tragedy in a tightly written, unsentimental narrative that doesn’t let either the reader or the characters opt out. Luckily, it also allows everyone to reap the ample rewards of following this story through. Each step forward for Lulu and Merry is hard-won and ultimately uplifting.

Even though he’s been incarcerated ever since the crime, their father’s presence is deeply scorched into the lives of Lulu, the elder, who tries to build her life on top of the past without allowing her family to glimpse its shaky foundations; and Merry, who feels haunted into continued visits to her father in prison. Both sisters dread hearing news of their father’s parol, but in the end that event may be the only way for the two to break free from their long emotional imprisonment of an entirely different sort.

Just like real life, what happens is believable, and the changes are on a human scale we can understand. There hardly seems a word or thought out of place in this narrative, so true does it keep to our sense of how people really do behave when their lives seem constantly under siege.

First-time author Randy Susan Meyers spent a decade of her own life working with victims, attackers and others affected by domestic violence, and all her words ring true.Merry, for one, is looking for perspective on her recently released father: “I could only hope to learn how not to hate him immoderately or love him too much. I needed to make my father life-size.” It’s finally that sense of “making things life-size” that informs this book and offers a way for these two survivors to move on, as they begin to make sense of the intricate tapestry of their lives.

Barbara Clark writes from West Yarmouth, Massachusetts.

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