By: Colleen Faulkner
Publication Date: 10/27/2015
My Rating: 4 Stars
Julia Maxton can't imagine anything worse than losing one of her three daughters—until the day seventeen-year-old Haley runs a stop sign, killing her younger sister Caitlin. Six weeks after the crash, the family is falling apart. Julia struggles not to show hostility toward Haley, but her deep-rooted anger won't go away. Her husband, Ben, has drifted away emotionally. Their youngest daughter, Izzy, is lost in the shuffle. And despite Haley's insistence that she's fine, her actions scream otherwise.
Fearing that she's about to lose a second child, Julia decides to take Haley on a cross-country drive. Maybe somewhere between Nevada and Maine they can bridge the gulf between them. But first there will be painful questions to face—is Julia a good mother? Did she secretly love responsible, respectful Caitlin more than defiant Haley? Can Haley ever find peace with her mother—and herself—again?
In Colleen Faulkner's most thought-provoking and complex novel to date, an unthinkable tragedy becomes the starting place for a powerful journey toward healing and hope. Honest and unforgettable, Julia's Daughters explores the surprising ways that families—even the most fractured—can save each other, over and over again.
A special thank you to Kensington and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Colleen Faulkner returns following As Close As Sisters, once again delivers an emotional journey on the road to healing from life’s challenges with JULIA’S DAUGHTERS --- a family, a mother attempting to pick up the pieces suffering from grief over the death of a daughter, under extremely difficult circumstances. The other remaining daughter happened to be the one driving the car, and is lost mentally; and the third daughter is not speaking to the other, plus her marriage is falling apart. INTENSE!
As the novel opens, 47 days after the tragic car accident, Julia, the mother is bed ridden. She cannot function, and all she can do is cry, day and night, never leaving her bed. Ben her husband, is back at work and taken over the duties, to try and hold the family together; showing no emotion. They are growing further apart by the day, since he is sleeping on the sofa and they are not communicating.
Seventeen year-old daughter, Haley was driving the car which killed Caitlin. Izzy the other daughter has not spoken to her older sister, Haley since the accident. She calls her the evil one, the killer, or “She Who Shall Not Be Named”. She instead talks to her dead sister.
Haley is acting out in all kinds of ways with self-mutilation, drugs, piercings, dyed dark hair, dark makeup, constant trouble, drug dealing, and the latest --now expelled from school for drugs, and smoking pot at school. She is miserable. She has a no care attitude and everything is a joke to her. She hates her life. However, she is hurting on the inside, with guilt and expresses her anger through destructive behavior. Angry and defiant. After all, her sister was the one everyone loved. Haley feels she should have been the one to die.
Julia has lost one daughter, and now she feels she is losing another. Her entire family is falling apart. She no longer has the time to grieve, she has lost control of her life. The only person she can talk to is her old friend Laney who lives in Maine. Laney’s husband died in service; a single mom, raising her boys. She has her own family to take care, but will drop everything to be with her, constantly telling her she has to get out of bed to take care of her family.
The final blow, after Haley is grounded from being expelled, she once again sneaks out of the house and in a panic, calls her mom to rescue her from the bad side of town in a crack house. Haley is astounded at how her mom comes in and takes control in front of all these bad guys…under pressure her mom is fearless. Her dad wants to send her to boarding school;however, Julia will not lose another daughter.
Something has to be done, so Julia decides it is time for a vacation, to get away with her daughter. Her husband thinks she has lost it; no way he can take off. 2800 miles, from Nevada to Maine, to see her friend; cross country—a road trip? He says she is insane. Resign from her job. She is doing this. This way they can get Haley away from the dope dealer and outside influences, to keep a closer watch on her.
Initially she was taking only Haley with one on one time, since Izzy had school. Of course Haley does not want to be stuck in a car with her mom on a road trip to go cross country. Since she is not eighteen, her mom forces her. She tells her she is going, or she will have her committed. (the loony bin)…this part was funny. Was this her weak mom? Haley had no clue she had in her. Here Haley thought she was going off to boarding school and instead a road trip with her mom—which is worse?
Izzy wants to go, has a meltdown so they both go—the girls who hate one another, with nowhere to run; they will either kill one another, or try and work on healing, and putting together their life. Now this is one brave mom! Of course the next morning Hayley is thinking maybe it would have been better to be committed to the nut floor. After all Caitlin gives her the stares---- M for Murderer.
Faulkner writes of strong women, mother/daughter relationships, in dire circumstances in the face of adversity. When faced with difficult situations, they have the capacity to become extraordinary women. As in her other books her characters tackle some pretty difficult life challenges. (cannot even imagine). Sometimes, as the novel reiterates, when faced with these extreme dire circumstances, we find out how strong we can be, in order to repair a relationship and heal from life’s tragedy.
Since the book is heavy with grief, sorrow, and drama, the author does a good job with the humor and wit, to balance out the moods from six weeks to nine months after. A roller coaster ride. Being a mother raising five sons, can relate to the whirlwind, even though not under these dire circumstances. (boys are a lot easier than girls, as well).
The novel also demonstrates the lack of communication which occurs in families in times of grief---the tearing apart of relationships, especially when there is more emotional desperation, as in this case with Haley. Everyone reacts differently to the death of a daughter and sister.
Izzy chose to talk to her dead sister, as a way of communicating, with hatred toward her sister. Haley was self-destructive taking it inward. Ben, buried himself in work, and his mother and family. Julia wanted to sleep, cry, and disconnect until she saw she needed to be strong enough for everyone-- to pull her girls back before losing another one.
Laney was a wonderful friend and being in this setting also offered support away from their environment. Julia will have to learn to trust Haley again with her younger sister, with driving and other things. From pain so intense you think you cannot go on…..and hope for the strength to carry on, despite the past. The author definitely takes you on an intense ride with raw emotions, testing a mother's strength with tough love.
This is not a fluff "feel good" women's chicklit fiction. Be prepared for a woman's tough journey. If you enjoy Jodi Picoult and Diane Chamberlain, you will appreciate the depth, and intensity of the strong mother/daughter dynamics. An ideal choice for book clubs, or group discussions with a reading guide and discussion questions included.
Faulkner always has the "best" front covers!
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About the Author
Colleen Faulkner sold her first novel at the age of 23 and has more than a hundred books, under various pseudonyms, in various genres, in print. Her novels are published world-wide and have been translated into Chinese, French, Bulgarian, Romanian and Italian, among other languages. Over the years, she’s written historical romance, contemporary romance, suspense, and cozy mysteries. Just Like Other Daughters was her first foray into general fiction and As Close As Sisters is now available. She’s currently at work on Julia’s Daughters, which will be a November 2015 release.
Colleen is the daughter of bestselling author, Judith E. French, and is represented by Evan Marshall of the Evan Marshall Literary Agency. She’s still married to her high school sweetheart and is the mother of four and grandmother of four. When not writing, she’s running the family farm in Delaware where the Faulkners settled 350 years ago.
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