Yes, My Darling Daughter

Yes, My Darling Daughter – Margaret Leroy
Little Brown & Co/2009
By: Sheri de Grom

You may remember, I decided to read Margaret Leroy’s entire backlist after I finished reading and reviewing The Soldier’s Wife and PostcardsFrom Berlin.

I’m always positive each read of Margaret Leroy’s, is my favorite work . . . and then I pick up her next novel.

Yes, My Darling Daughter is a hands-down winner and I expect it will make my list of best ten novels I’ve read in 2012.

Yes, My Darling Daughter has been categorized by many as a mystery but it’s so much more. It portrays the loving relationship of a single mother who’s losing her four-year old daughter, Sylvie, to a strange, otherworldly fixation. It seems there’s a long-ago crime that’s haunting Sylvie.

Margaret Leroy has proven her ability to write mother-daughter relationships in the two previous novels I’ve read. Yes, My Darling Daughter is filled with the sensibilities of an extraordinary single mother willing to do anything to help her child.

Grace, Sylvie’s mother, attempts to give her daughter a balanced home life. Grace feels as though she’s living on the edge to keep Sylvie’s life as routine as possible.

Grace works in a London flower shop and her salary barely meets their living expenses. When she became pregnant with Sylvie, Dominic—Grace’s married lover—abandoned her after she refused to have an abortion.

Grace doesn’t know how to handle Sylvie’s sudden outbursts of screaming, her rigid body, and her own inability to comfort her daughter. One of the worst outbreaks Sylvie has occurs at Sylvie’s best friend’s birthday party.

. . . Pg 8 [Out of nowhere, some instinct makes me turn. It’s Sylvies’ go at apple bobbing, she’s kneeling by the bowl. I don’t see exactly what happens. A commotion, a scrabble of boys near the bowl, and then water everywhere, all over the stripped pine floor, and on Sylvie’s hair and her clothes. I see her face, but I can’t get there in time, can’t undo it. I’m too late, I’m always too late. She’s kneeling there, taut as a wire, the other children already backing away from her: tense, white, the held breath, then the scream.

The children part to let me through. I kneel beside her and hold her. Her body is rigid, she’s fighting against me. Her screams are thin, high, edged with fear. When I put my arms around her, she pushes against my chest with her fists, as though I am her enemy. Everyone’s eyes are on us: the other children, fascinated, a little superior; the women, at once sympathetic and disapproving. I glimpse the magician’s look of startled concern as he gathers the other children together for the next game. I try to sweep her up in my arms, but she’s fighting me, I can’t do it. I half carry, half drag her into the hall. Karen comes after us, closes the living-room door.] . . .

Grace attempts to repair the damage to her friendship with Karen. After all, Karen is her only real friend in what Grace often refers to as the normal world. It was at Karen’s house where Sylvie had her melt-down over the bobbing for apples incident.

Grace is walking a tightrope with the daycare Sylvie attends. Sylvie’s behavior toward other children is inappropriate and her cold gaze at others can’t be explained. Each day Grace stops at the daycare to pick Sylvie up and each day the supervisor tells Grace she needs to find another place for Sylvie to stay.

The day arrives when Sylvie can no longer go to the daycare and there’s no one else to watch her. Grace’s boss at the flower shop tells Grace she’ll no longer have a job for her. She has to have help she can depend on every day and a four-year old child cannot come to the flower shop.

Stopping at the market one day, a news headline catches Grace’s eye. . . . Pg 57 [Things that go bump in the night are all in a day’s work for Dr. Adam Winters, of the Psychic Institute at Hampton University. Dr. Winters talked to me in the disappointingly prosaic setting of his office in the Department of Psychology. A soft-spoken man, whose gentle voice belies his evident energy and fascination with his subject, he has investigated ghosts, poltergeists and cases of telepathy. Sounds like an exciting job? “Mostly it’s quite routine,” says Dr. Winters. “For instance, if someone claims to have telepathic powers, we might set up an experiment where they have to make predictions, and we analyze the results to see if their guesses are better than chance. Basically we’re applying scientific methods of inquiry to the things that happen to people that they can’t explain . . .”]. . .

In an effort to help Sylvie, Grace has tried all the conventional ideas everyone has tossed her way. She becomes more and more frantic. She’s on her own to find out what’s wrong with Sylvie. There’s a constant sense that something about Sylvie is beyond her ability to help.

Out of a sense of helplessness, Grace calls Dominic, Sylvie’s father. She hasn’t seen him since before Sylvie was born and has never asked for help. Dominic has the ability to help support Sylvie but he’d asked Grace to have an abortion. Putting pride aside she calls Dominic and asks him to meet her for coffee.

. . . Pg 106 [“So, Grace, you and me,” he says. His eyes looking deep into mine. “We had our good times, didn’t we?”

He’s the only man I’ve ever loved, the father of my child. It’s not the way I’d have put it.

I watch him walk away from me, out the door and down the street, where the rain is coming on heavily now. Walking briskly, as though he’s glad to be gone. The rain that dribbles down the window blurs and smudges the shape of him, the way things blur when your eyes are wet with tears.]. . .

Grace reaches a point where her own life seems meaningless. It’s impossible for her to have friends or go on an occasional date. Every moment of her life is consumed with Sylvie’s needs.

Grace accepts that Sylvie may have lived a past life and brought it into this world with unresolved issues. The dangers haunting her daughter in the past may have transcended into Sylvie’s world of today.

Normally I would have been put off by the story development. I’ve never been one to read about past lives and moving through the universe, but Margaret Leroy’s characters are so fully developed and deliciously complex that I became engaged in the story and no one could have taken the book from me. I was reading to the end!

The pace of the novel never slowed. I saw, heard, and felt Grace’s anguish as she realized for the final time that she couldn’t help Sylvie. That whatever was wrong with her daughter, she couldn’t make it right.

Grace turns to Adam Winters for help. She has no other options and Adam has been willing to help from the first time Sylvie met with him. It helps the story that Adam has a grant from the university where he is employed and the grant allows him to pay for their expenses as they travel to Ireland from London where the deep interiors of Sylvie’s mind seems to reside.

Yes, My Darling Daughter by Margaret Leroy is character- driven and, within the multi-layered plot, emotions are captured and held hostage. A previous perception of what once was considered fact is shattered forever. Language is masterfully employed.

Powell’s Books compared Margaret Leroy to rank and file authors: Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw, or, more recently, Patrick McGrath’s Asylum. I’d add Donna Tartt’s The Little Friend to this esteemed list.

Yes, My Darling Daughter is a page-turner from the first sentence. I highly recommend this novel for any book group and certainly any individual intrigued by complex characters, a well-thought out plot with numerous twists and turns and what seemed an impossible but believable ending. I’m now a bigger fan of Margaret Leroy than ever.

It’s interesting and informative to read the entire body of work of an author now that I’m reviewing books. The Soldier’s Wife is definitely women’s fiction. Postcards From Berlin is women’s fiction with mystery components added. Now, Yes, My Darling Daughter, I’d still categorize as women’s fiction with strong suspense elements. This novel will also appeal to readers who enjoy the psychological mystery component.

For me, Yes, My Darling Daughter was a five-star read and I don’t have a desire to place it in a genre category. This novel stands alone in a literary field shared by few.

I unconditionally recommend Yes, My Darling Daughter to book clubs and individuals alike. I could not put this fascinating tale aside.

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About Sheri de Grom

Retired Fed/JAG, 5 yrs. on Capitol Hill. Former book buyer for B and N. Concerned citizen of military drawdown. Currently involved in mental healthcare reform, health care strategist and actively pursuing legislative change wherein dual retirees are exempt from enrolling in Medicare at their own discretion without losing tertiary healthcare benefits. Monitor and comment on Federal Register proposed legislation involving Mental Health, Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, Medicare and rural libraries. Licensed OSHA Inspector to include Super Fund sites. Full time caregive to Vietnam era veteran. Conceptualized, investigated possible alternatives, authored, lobbied for, and successfully implemented Title X, Section 1095 (known as the Third Party Collection Program of Federal Insurance).
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17 Responses to Yes, My Darling Daughter

  1. You always have the most interesting reviews. I’m definitely going to read this one.
    Thanks

  2. This one sounds very interesting. I think I’ll need to add this to my reading list. 🙂

  3. Oooh, I need a book for my book club pick and I think you’ve sold me on this one! I have to read it now just to find out what happens. Your review is most compelling.

    • Tameri – I do hope you enjoy Yes, My Darling Daughter as much as I did. I had numerous times when I’d forget I was reviewing the book and would have to back track to make notes and do my highlighting (husband calls it book review surgery). It’s such a compelling read. This is indeed a novel for everyone–love story, mystery escalated to psychological thriller, mother/daughter fiction, and the list goes on. I could not put it down.

  4. Sounds like a must read…adding it to my book list now!

  5. Sheri, your talent for reviewing books and finding just the right fit for each of us is uncanny. Did you see that Gone Girl made the NYTBSL ?? You are on the cutting edge of what’s good in fiction. Thanks again 🙂

    • Florence – I thought of you often in reading Yes, My Darling Daughter. This novel was promoted by Little Brown & Co as suspense and not women’s fiction. It has the tone of psychological suspense and with Sylvie’s mysterious condition it becomes otherworldly at times. The exquisite word placement and sentence structuring had me holding my breath for what was yet to come. Yes, there’s a murder and a very clever one at that. What can I say, it’s an amazing story.

      The publisher is still putting an incredible amount of money behind Gone Girl and the novel is on every major list I follow – however, there’s no denying, the scope and presentation has out-classed many novels that have come before.

  6. christicorbett says:

    That was a very good review! You gave away just enough to intrigue, but not enough to spoil. Nicely done.

    Now I’m off to find out how to buy it.

    Christi Corbett

    • Christi – I have to admit I purchased Yes, My Darling Daughter as a used book. It was in perfect condition as it came from a library–but I still like to support all authors by buying new. As I mentioned to Patti above, a printed manuscript is much easier for an in-depth review. I nearly flipped when a new copy of Postcards From Berlin was to be $80.00. That obviously sent me looking for a used copy. I haven’t checked the e-book market. If I were reading for pure pleasure and not for review, that’s the first place I’d start looking. Please let me know how you like her work.

  7. WOW! I am impressed. I’ll be buying this one. Your review is excellent and pulled me in completely.

    • Patti – I was so intrigued by this novel. I almost always buy in hardback for review, as you know, because of my eyes and the marking up of a novel I do for the review process. I hope Nook and Kindle are carrying a full inventory of Margaret Leroy’s novels. Hardback copies are a struggle to find. Yes, My Darling Daughter is an amazing read and oh the way she positions the words to push the reader forward with every sentence.

  8. Sheri, this is such a fine review. When I finish my edits and have time to read for pleasure again, I will most definitely be reading Margaret Leroy’s books. Thank you for introducing her work to me.

    • Patricia, I think you’ll enjoy Margaret Leroy’s writing as much as I do. Her storytelling skills are amazing. I’ve really had to scour the internet in search of her complete works. I’ve always said no to buying used books — but I’ve had to make an exception when I decided to read Margaret Leroy’s backlist. The first book I read was The Soldier’s Wife, and I enjoyed it so much, I decided to read all of her other novels. I just finished reading another of her novels early this week, but Yes, My Darling Daughter is still in first place of all her works.

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