Daughters-in-Law by Joanna Trollope
Publisher: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: April 2011
Reviewed by Melody Ballard
Rachel and Anthony live an ideal life. They live comfortably, have personal success (Rachel with her culinary expertise and Anthony with his art), and have three devoted sons. Family members love and are committed to each other, and family ties become stronger with each passing year. Rachel’s dedication to her family defines who she is, and her support and guidance to her sons has also defined who they are.
Their story begins with the wedding of their son, Luke and their third daughter-in-law Charlotte as she becomes part of the family. Charlotte, like Rachel has lived a full life, and like Rachel, she has her own views of what a family should be. Charlotte’s widowed mother is also an artist, but her art is much different from the art of Anthony.
As the ceremony begins Rachel remembers the wedding of Edward to Sigrid in Stockholm. Sigrid, strikingly beautiful and blond has her own career with museums and galleries performing analysis on items in their collections. Rachel is out of her element with the strange food and customs of Sweden, and feels like an outsider at Edward and Sigrid’s wedding.
At the reception for Luke and Charlotte, we meet Petra, the wife of their son Ralph, along with their two grandsons, Kit and Barney. Of all the daughters-in-law, Anthony and Rachel find Petra to be the most endearing. Petra, who took an art class with Anthony had neither an ideal life or personal success. She was fraught with insecurities and was so closed in her interaction with others, it was though that she might be mute. Both Rachel and Anthony saw her need and her beauty and soon embraced her into the warmth of their family. Shortly thereafter, their unpredictable son, Ralph fell in love with Petra and they too began to live the life Petra had never known.
As the three sons begin their new lives with their wives, their visits and interactions with Rachel and Anthony become less frequent. Rachel begins the struggle to hold on to the life they have lived and her support and guidance is soon viewed by her daughters-in-law as meddling and interference. Inevitably, hurtful words and actions threaten to destroy the love and security of Rachel’s and Anthony’s world, as well as the relationships between their sons and their wives Charlotte, Sigrid, and Petra.
These three very different daughters-in-law are brought together by a family crisis. As a result of this, Luke, Edward, and Ralph begin to understand that it is necessary to transition their priorities from Rachel and Anthony and deepen their commitment to their wives and children. Anthony and Rachel begin their own transitions as this family moves forward with inevitable changes.
Told in a sensitive and compelling way, Joanna Trollope allows us to make a beautiful examination of the lives of this family. We are left with the feeling that it is through the strength of family bonds that a family can navigate through painful and unexpected obstacles.
Review copy provided by publisher.