The story of the Santerres is continued from LIARS AND SAINTS in this tale told from the point of view of several of the characters. When Abby is seven, her mother and father are separating. Abby stays with her grandparents, developing chicken pox and a close relationship with her college-aged uncle Jamie, who comes home to entertain and delight his niece.
After the divorce, Abby lives in a joint custody arrangement --- a month with her warm but strict lawyer father alternating with a month with her free-spirit mother and her mother's multitude of boyfriends. Abby grows up and decides to go to college at the University of San Diego, maybe partially because that's where her parents met, were happy together, and conceived her.
Tragedy strikes the family and Abby falls apart. She leaves school, cannot eat, and refuses to be consoled. She takes off on her own, and is far too alone until Uncle Jamie comes to help her, once again rescuing her from a dreary stretch. In the midst of a startling new twist in their relationship, Jamie learns a potentially devastating (if true) family secret, which he's afraid to confirm. Meanwhile, Abby becomes fascinated by what lies beneath the surface of family connections. She begins a novel based on her own family, embellished with her imagination.
Jamie becomes besotted with and then engaged to odd, beautiful, chronically unfaithful Saffron. Saffron asks him to come with her to Argentina to help with a family disaster of her own: her mother, Josephine, who has recently adopted a baby, now has been stricken with dementia. Jamie and Saffron request Abby's company on the trip to translate for the child who speaks only Spanish. In Argentina, settled into the gothic atmosphere of Josephine's mansion, their situations change rapidly. There is a death, a potential blackmailer, and a questionable will. Out of the chaos, an unexpected family unit is formed.
Abby finishes her novel; following its publication, her family is concerned over the facts and fictions contained in her book. Amazingly, some of the most astonishing true events in the story are regarded as pure fiction and vice versa. In real life, family members are galvanized to surprising actions by memories triggered by Abby's book.
From the moment I opened A FAMILY DAUGHTER, I was completely absorbed in Abby's life and would happily have read it in one sitting if Real Life hadn't kept interfering. The characters are entirely believable. It is a fascinating look into extended connections and repercussions of actions among family, friends and lovers. Without being one bit overwrought (in fact, the prose is nicely understated), this book is crammed full of drama: deaths, depression, infidelity, drugs, secrets and lies, illicit affairs, madness, obsession, mysterious strangers, love of all kinds, an inheritance, adoptions, and more. The author has a unique gift for unforeseen yet reasonable plot twists that makes for delightfully unpredictable reading.
Although this book continues the story of the Santerre family begun in the author's previous novel, LIARS AND SAINTS, it is a stand-alone story that can be read and enjoyed for its own merits. However, readers of A FAMILY DAUGHTER who have not yet delved into LIARS AND SAINTS most likely will be compelled to search for it immediately.
--- Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon (email@example.com)