The Second Daughter – A first class read

A friend of mine has published his first novel and it is marvelous.

The Second Daughter is a book of charm and wit but ultimately, it shows us great emotional depth too. Its characters are very well drawn. My friend does an exceptional job of making readers empathize and care for a set of people who (with one exception) are not really likable or empathetic – at least in a conventional way. The initial love story pairs a classic odd couple of opposites and yet you can see how they come together and their relationship never seems implausible.  The narrative makes the reader take the same emotional journey as the characters and introduces us to a wonderful cast of unique individuals. It strikes a remarkable balance — a very fun and funny book that ultimately also is sad, profound and redeeming.

It is a story about the Gale family. An uptight mother, her spontaneous, irresponsible husband and their two daughters; but ultimately it is about love in all its changing forms – romantic love, spousal love (and how it can be lost), sibling rivalry and parental love (and how it evolves.)

While the plot is a familiar well-worn journey, as told here, it is an intimate journey nevertheless. The anticipation of predictable events adds to the engagement with the reader – “I know what’s coming, I dread what’s coming, I have to read what’s coming next…”

I have to confess that I am jealous. My friend’s writing style is really engaging and readable. While it is funny and light, it still succeeds in painting detailed portraits. This book is so accessible in all the best ways – not insipid at all – but it never runs the risk of losing a reader by appearing to be written over someone’s head (the author is a very accomplished university philosophy professor.) I wish that I could write this well.

Finally this book’s subject and mastery of displaying the intimate connections that we make in families and screw up and regret and redeem against all odds is truly exceptional. My friend writes so well about women and relationships, establishing such strong empathy that this book while “chick-flickesque” in its subject matter, is a very good read for men or women alike. Check it out.

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