Monday, September 12, 2011

There Are Two Sides to a Story...

I have a confession. I sometimes annoy the heck out of my husband.

It's true.

The first time was early in our dating relationship, when we entered a tourist store on the Santa Monica pier. We had a question about some piece of artwork and the salesman was RUDE. Downright, undeniably rude. Dismissive of us, snippy, ignoring. We walked out without buying a single thing, and my husband was riled up.

I casually mentioned maybe the clerk was having an especially bad day. Maybe he'd gotten in trouble with his boss. Or his wife just left him. Or he'd been diagnosed with cancer that day. Or had his car stolen.

My husband turned on me and said, "Are you seriously taking HIS side?"

Of course, I wasn't taking anyone's side. I was just trying to SEE all the sides. All the possibilities. Would any of those excuses make it okay that the man was rude to us? No; but it might make me feel less upset about it.

One of the things I like about writing is that I can see life from all kinds of perspectives. I can be the woman who steals a husband from his wife. Be the mom who becomes addicted to drugs or abuses her kids. I can be the the person who forgives, or holds a grudge. I can, for a time, climb inside someone else's head and see life from their point of view.

Good fiction will help us as readers do that, too.

I recently picked up Randy Susan Meyer's The Murderer's Daughters. I don't remember where I'd heard about it, but the title alone caught my eye, and the description of the book hooked me.

Two young girls witness the murder of their mother by their father, and then, essentially orphaned by his imprisonment, they spend the rest of their childhood being shuffled from one unloving home to another.

The book follows them for thirty years, each girl dealing with the murder in drastically different ways, one acting as though her father doesn't exist while the other keeps him close. Both live in fear of the day he will make parole.

There are a couple reasons this intrigued me, the first being it's about girls who go through life with the identification of being the murderer's daughter. It's a powerful name, and one which haunts them each in different ways.

The second reason I wanted to read the book, and the thing which ended up being the reason I think this book is so fantastic, is that it is told by the two sisters in their own point of view. Switching POV in alternating chapters, the reader gets to be inside the heads of both the girls, who, having witnessed the same event, take it to heart in entirely different ways.

I read this book for school, so as I was sitting at my laptop writing the reading commentary for it, I had to ask myself, could this book have been written in just one point of view? The answer to that is both yes and no. Yes, of course one could write a book about a girl who watches her father murder her mother. But no, that book would then not be this book. Because this book is far more than that.

This book is about how two different people can come from the same place, be in the same circumstance, and see it in entirely different ways.

I love that the sisters don't get each other. Lulu can't wrap her head around the idea that Merry visits their father in prison, that she brings photos of his grandchild and keeps his letters. Merry can't understand why Lulu has essentially disowned their only living parent, or remember the good time they had with him. Lulu desperately wants to be out on her own, while Merry desperately wants a family to love her. There ends up being irony in that, but you'll have to read the book to find out why.

Because the point of view switches, the reader gets a chance to see things from the eyes of each of the sisters, to walk in their shoes, so to speak. It is like reading two versions of the same story.

On the surface this book is just a good read. It's fast-paced, engaging, unique. But more than that, it's a lesson that goes beyond the story of two girls living in the shadow of their criminal father: it's the story of how people can see life through different eyes, and both be right.


  1. I'm like you...I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt. I know there have been times where I have been in a bad mood for whatever reason and may not have treated someone as nicely as I would have if I had not been in that mood. Everyone is human and has things to deal with on a daily basis.

    I too like to get into different character's heads...places i could never go in real life. It's just as exciting for me to go on the story's journey as I hope it is for my reader!

  2. i annoy my husband in EXACTLY the same way :D

    Also - I LOVE double POV books, especially with stuff like this.

    THANKS for sharing!

  3. Wow, sounds like quite the book. Sometimes I annoy my husband just because. Which is much worse.

  4. Oh no...another book to add to my 'from Heidi' TBR list! I have a friend whose sister has a completely different perspective about their father than she. And it is interested how just amoung my siblings, we have completely different views, as different as seeing the prairie vs the sea. Quite interesting!

  5. Sounds like a really good one. Thanks for the recommendation. I hope you had a great summer.

  6. I love alternating POV. I think it's more challenging to write and more rewarding to read. Sometimes it's the only way to convey the story, I think.

    Isn't it great, writing fiction? Seeing all sides. You are so right about that.

    I annoy my husband daily, by the way. It might as well have been promised in the wedding vows.