I would like to start this review* by quoting the Author’s Note at the end of the text: “Although the references to historical names and events are real, this story remains, first and foremost, a work of fiction. October of 1970 was a tumultuous time for the people of Quebec. Emotions ran high, ideals soared and plummeted, yet they emerged from this with a clearer, more confident vision of themselves as a society. I made a creative effort to anchor my novel within the confines of the actual events—but in the end, my characters dictated the ebb and flow of the story.” [perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”#023537″ class=”” size=””]
The Daughters’ Story is an utterly credible novel of tremendous compassion and insight into the times.[/perfectpullquote] The “tumultuous time” that Ms. Cyr refers to is the FLQ October Crisis of 1970. I was just under 10 years old at the time, so I really didn’t understand what was going on. I only knew that people were kidnapped and one was killed. I’m sure there have been other works of historical fiction centred around those dark days, but this is the first I have come across, and it’s a good, solid read. (A warning to readers: what follows may contain what some consider spoilers. You may want to skip to the conclusion below.)
Note the placement of the apostrophe in the title: after the s, and not before it, indicating there is more than one daughter involved. First, there is Nadine Brochet, a thirty-six-year-old single woman who works for the garment worker’s union. She is the daughter of Claire, who was murdered (with a five-year-old Nadine in her arms) by her husband. Nadine was adopted by Denis and Janette who provided her with a good home, and Nadine refers to them as Aunt Jan and Uncle Denis. At sixteen years of age, Nadine becomes pregnant (not by consent) and flees to a home for unwed mothers where her daughter is taken from her as soon as she is born and put up for adoption. This daughter is Lisette, whom we meet 20 years later in 1970. Lisette is pregnant by Serge, a marginal member of the FLQ. She is searching for her birth mother in order to get family medical history for a vision problem she is having. She wants to know if it is hereditary or not. In the course of events, we are transported back and forth over the decades spanning the First World War to October 1970. We learn of Nadine’s upbringing, her dislike of the Pritchards (her in-laws; she refuses to use their last name) and her struggles over having her child taken from her. Remember, in 1950, being single and pregnant in a very Catholic Quebec was a major issue. Shame was placed, not only on the mother but on her family as well. Then there are Lisette’s struggles with a boyfriend connected to the FLQ, eight months pregnant, and in search of her mother. She has a history of being a ‘difficult’ child and was bounced around different foster homes until she finished high school and went out on her own. Once her and Nadine meet in a cafe, it is not a happy reunion:
Lisette pulled her glasses off and cleaned them with a napkin. “Here we go. The Harlequin moment when mother and child meet for the first time in twenty years. Spare me the drama, please. I had enough of that in the foster homes they dumped me in.”
Nadine stared at her perplexed. “Foster homes? I was under the impression that a young couple adopted you.”
“Right.” She crunched the napkin and tossed it on the table. “The model couple got divorced one week after my fifth birthday. First they told me I was adopted, and then they announced they couldn’t keep me anymore. Seven screwed-up families later, here I am, survivor of abuse and neglect in the commendable foster care system. But hey –” She leaned back and folded her arms across her chest. “None of that is your fault, is it? All you did was give birth to me and go on with your life.”
Nadine is taken aback at the brashness of this girl and can see it will take time to span the twenty turbulent years that separate them.
There is much more to The Daughters’ Story, and saying any more would venture into spoiler alert territory. I certainly liked reading this book, and I believe anyone interested in recent-history historical fiction will also. There are many good storylines in The Daughters’ Story (perhaps too many, one may argue) and while the dialogues at times appear unnatural (no one converses in paragraphs, do they?), it is an utterly credible novel of tremendous compassion and insight into the times.
*Note: this review is based on an Advance Reading Copy (ARC) that was supplied by Baraka Books. The Daughters’ Story is scheduled to be released May 1st, 2019. You can pre-order from Amazon.ca below.
The Daughters’ Story by Murielle Cyr
*Please note if you choose to purchase this book through Amazon using the link below I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. If you cannot see the Amazon ad below (if you are using an ad blocker, for instance) here is the link: https://amzn.to/2T1mroM Thanks!
James M. Fisher is the owner and editor-in-chief of The Miramichi Reader. He began TMR in 2015, realizing that there was a genuine need for more book reviews of Canadian literature. It has since become Canada’s best-regarded source for the finest in new literary releases. James has been interviewed about TMR on CBC Radio and other media sites. James works as a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Technologist and lives in Miramichi, New Brunswick with his wife Diane and their tabby cat Eddie.