The Plank and Dickerson families both gave birth to daughters on Tuesday, July 4, 1950. The girls' births bring the families together in a somewhat haphazard friendship. The Planks are farmers and the Dickerson's visit their vegetable stand each July 4th in a sort-of celebration or recognition of the daughter's birthdays.
I was somewhat disappointed to learn that there was going to be a surprise element in this story but the so-called "surprise" is easily guessed by page four and on. The only surprise to be had is the one in finding out how each of the characters in the novel reacts to this surprise.
It was a slow moving read and because I knew what the surprise element was so early in the book, it made me want to skip several chapters just to get to the part of when and how the characters find out. I think Ms. Maynard's intentions were good, but further character development in the characterizations of each family member would have brought more to the story and the fact that the "surprise element" shouldn't have been so easily guessed so early.
on June 13, 2011
As others have mentioned, the "twist" in this story is evident from the get-go - and it's a little confusing as to whether this was done on purpose or not. It does make you wonder just a little bit why bother read to the end. Regardless, the story was an entertaining one. Maynard does a great job of building each of the characters - you really feel that you get to know each of them well. And the theme - family and the ties that bind - is relatable to all.
Two families, the Planks and Dickersons are each blessed with a daughter who just happened to be born on Tuesday, July 4, 1950. The girls' shared birthday brings the families together in a sort of friendship that is recognized when the families get together to share their daughters' shared birthday. The Dickersons also use July 4 as an annual visit to buy produce from th Plank farm.
Ruth Plank, one of the Independence Day girls has 4 sisters and has no real connection with any of the women in her family. Connie Plank, Ruth's mother treats Ruth as though she merely tolerates her while showing overt favoritism to her older daughters. One cannot help but wonder if Connie's rejection of Ruth is because Ruth does not look like any of the women in her immediate family.
Like Connie Plank, Val Dickerson's relationship with her daughter Dana is one of distant formality. Dana has an older brother, Ray and these siblings have nothing in common. The Dickersons travel throughout the country and Dana and Ray receive little notice.
Connie Plank appears to be jealous of the traveling Dickersons and brings them up at the drop of a hat. She adopts an apple polishing tone with them by bringing them gifts, singing their praises and going out of her way to see them every year. The Dickersons understandably find her fawning tone of servile deference off putting and in time the visits come to a close.
Ruth Plank, not one to take to her rural background is an art enthusiast and a real "culture vulture." Dana is her opposite number and has an interest and aptitude in plant life. Ray is a fascinating character who uses charm and guile to glide through life. He also appears to be bipolar. He is also Ruth's love interest.
The chapters are written in Ruth and Dana's voices in alternating chapters. Readers are taken with them down the Long & Winding Road throughout the major events in their lives. This is an excellent book with a riveting writing style that will pull readers in from the start.
Joyce Maynard is a gifted writer and the question that appears to crop up throughout the book is answered. Readers reap the literary harvest of good writing; plausible characters and a fascinating story that will take root in the heart(lands) of those who read it. I highly recommend this book along with all of Joyce Maynard's other books as well. This is definitely a must read.