Hitting the mediocre with commitment – “Daughter’s Keeper” by Ayelet Waldman

December 7, 2014 at 11:02 am Leave a comment

“Daughter’s Keeper” by Ayelet Waldman, Published in 2003 

Let me start by saying early into this book I realized that Ayelet Waldman is married to writer Michael Chabon, who really has quite a lot of love for himself and is likely too cool for all of us readers.   Setting that aside, or at least trying to, Waldman’s novel was okay.  Her writing has promise, the story was interesting and the characters were fairly developed. But it fell a bit flat.

Olivia is the daughter of a single middle class mother, Elaine, who was raised with as much affection and care as Elaine could muster.  And though she grew up in Berkley, California with all daughters-keeper-180her needs met, Olivia has always needed more.  She is ardent and passionate about life. In her early twenties, she travels to Mexico and meets the charming Jorge. They have what she considers a short affair and she returns to California and her life.  Much to Olivia’s surprise, Jorge appears on her doorstep.   He has illegally entered the country to be with her.  Of course the love story is not the thing that movies (or books) are made of, and quickly Jorge realizes that he cannot find a job with his illegal status.  Short of cash and desperate to feel some self-worth, he decides to engage in a drug deal. Olivia finds herself in a car waiting for Jorge while he runs into a house in a bad neighborhood with a box of something.

Two days later, Olivia is awakened in the middle of the night, in her apartment, when the police smash open the door and arrest her. Olivia spends a short stint in prison while she waits for her mother to post bond.  Once Olivia is released to Elaine’s custody, she discovers she is pregnant.  So while preparing for trial – she has been charged with co-conspiracy to deal drugs – Olivia must also determine what will happen to her unborn child.   Meanwhile, Elaine must decide how to be a mother to Olivia, even if her life has become something unrecognizable to her.

I feel like this description is clinical but that is because in part I felt like the book was like that.  I am not sure if this is the novel itself or just for some reason my reaction to it. Either way, Waldman tries to talk about motherhood and the complexity it creates and allows in our lives, but it felt contrived.  Waldman is an attorney and I will say I have noticed that when attorneys become authors sometimes there is an emotional disconnect in their writing.  Notably, Waldman does get good reviews for her novels so I am also willing to chalk this up to a rocky beginning to our relationship. Meaning this reader and writer will likely get back together in the future and we will see what happens.   But the suspense of our future really wouldn’t weigh heavy on my mind I assure you.




Entry filed under: December 2014 reads. Tags: , , , , , , .

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There is some great literature out there, but there is a lot of bad literature as well. We shouldn't all have to read it. These are my recommendations and thoughts about the books I read.


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