"Mama was “no macaroni-necklace-wearing kind of mother.” She was a lipstick and perfume-wearing mother, a flirt whose estranged husband still hungered for her. After Mama threw him out, she warned the girls to never let Daddy in the house, an admonition that tears at ten-year-old Lulu whenever she thinks about the day she opened the door for her drunken father, and watched as he killed her mother, stabbed her five-year-old sister Merry and tried to take his own life.
Effectively orphaned by their mother’s death and father’s imprisonment, Lulu and Merry, unwanted by family members and abandoned to a terrifying group home, spend their young lives carrying more than just the visible scars from the tragedy. Even as their plan to be taken in by a well-to-do foster family succeeds, they come to learn they’ll never really belong anywhere or to anyone—that all they have to hold onto is each other.
As they grow into women, Lulu holds fast to her anger, denies her father’s existence and forces Merry into a web of lies about his death that eventually ensnares her own husband and daughters. Merry, certain their safety rests on placating her needy father, dutifully visits him, seeking his approval and love at the expense of her own relationships. As they strive to carve lives of their own, the specter of their father, unrepentant and manipulative even from behind bars, haunts them. And when they learn he’s about to be paroled, the house of cards they’ve built their lives on teeters on the brink of collapse."
This debut novel tracks the lives of two sisters as they attempt to create lives in the shadow of a harrowing family tragedy. Older sister Lulu must cope with the guilt of opening the door to their father the day he stabbed their mother to death, while younger sister Merry lives with her memories of the murder and her father's failed attempt to kill her and himself. Forced into an orphange by the death of their maternal grandmother, the sisters are lucky enough to find a stable foster family who nonetheless fail them on an emotional level. Betrayed by everyone else, the two sisters form an unhealthy (but understandable) co-dependent relationship marred only by Merry's regular visits to her father and Lulu's refusal to admit he is alive.
I literally couldn't put this book down- it was powerful, heart-breaking, and ultimately redemptive all at the same time. The girls are wonderful characters whose voices and actions ring true without seeming stereotypical. I felt emotionally connected to these girls, invested in their well-being and frantic to try to keep them safe. The author's experience with the victims of violent crime serves her well and gives the reader a wonderful (and terrifying) insight into the lives these victims lead. Highly recommended!