Winner of the 2015 PEN Southwest Book Award
“Endlessly powerful. . . . Here is one you should not miss, a gratifying feast in lush, lyrical, and full-throated form.”—NPR.org
Lulu can't sing. Since the traumatic birth of her daughter, the internationally renowned soprano hasn't dared utter a note. She's afraid that her body is too fragile and that she may have lost her talent to a long-dreaded curse afflicting all of the mothers in her family.
When Lulu was a child, her strong-willed grandmother Ada filled her head with fables of the family's enchanted history in the Polish countryside. A fantastical lore took hold—an incantatory mix of young love, desperate hope, and one sinister bargain that altered the family's history forever. Since that fateful pact, Ada tells Lulu, each mother in their family has been given a daughter, but each daughter has exacted an essential cost from her mother.
Ada was the first to recognize young Lulu's transcendent talent, spotting it early on in their cramped Chicago apartment, then watching her granddaughter ascend to dizzying heights in packed international concert halls. But as the curse predicted, Lulu's mother, a sultry and elusive jazz singer, disappeared into her bitterness in the face of Lulu's superior talent—before disappearing from her family's life altogether. Now, in the early days of her own daughter's life, Lulu now finds herself weighing her overwhelming love for her child against the burden of her family's past.
In incandescent prose, debut novelist Adrienne Celt skillfully intertwines the sensuous but precise physicality of both motherhood and music. She infuses The Daughters with the spirit of the rusalka, a bewitching figure of Polish mythology that inspired Dvorák's classic opera. The result is a tapestry of secrets, affairs, and unimaginable sacrifices, revealing a family legacy laced with brilliance, tragedy, and most mysterious and seductive of all—the resonant ancestral lore that binds each mother to the one that came before.