cover image The Daughters

The Daughters

Adrienne Celt. Norton/Liveright, $24.95 (256p) ISBN 978-1-63149-045-3

Short story and comics creator Celt interweaves themes of music, motherhood, and myth in her lyrical debut novel. It centers on five generations of a family, specifically the women, all musical and all in some way fatherless. The day her first child is born, successful opera singer Lulu loses her beloved Polish grandmother. After Lulu’s troubled mother, Sara, disappeared when Lulu was nine, grandmother Ada raised the girl, nurturing her promising voice and offering a sense of heritage through vivid tales about Lulu’s great-grandmother Greta. Now an injury sustained during her own daughter’s birth puts a halt to the singing that has driven Lulu’s life and career, while a guilty secret jeopardizes her marriage. The simultaneous birth and losses seem to affirm the family curse: that Greta’s female descendants will each have a daughter of superior musical gifts, but only at a heavy cost. As Lulu nurtures baby Kara and herself, she revisits the conflicting family histories her mother and grandmother have shared and their messages about female legacy, power, and longing. But whether she can heal her family wounds, either past or present, Lulu can’t yet tell. The novel’s luminous prose, subtle structure, and rich contrast between present-day Chicago and Old World folklore help craft a resonant meditation on the way our stories at once shape and sabotage our lives. (Aug.)