THE DAUGHTERS

Adrienne Celt

In this virtuosic debut, a world-class soprano seeks to reclaim her voice from the curse that winds through her family tree.

Since the difficult birth of her daughter, which coincided tragically with the death of her beloved grandmother, renowned opera sensation Lulu can’t bring herself to sing a note. Haunted by a curse that traces back through the women in her family, she fears that the loss of her remarkable talent and the birth of her daughter are somehow inextricably connected. As Lulu tentatively embraces motherhood, she sifts through the stories she’s inherited about her elusive,

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In this virtuosic debut, a world-class soprano seeks to reclaim her voice from the curse that winds through her family tree.

Since the difficult birth of her daughter, which coincided tragically with the death of her beloved grandmother, renowned opera sensation Lulu can’t bring herself to sing a note. Haunted by a curse that traces back through the women in her family, she fears that the loss of her remarkable talent and the birth of her daughter are somehow inextricably connected. As Lulu tentatively embraces motherhood, she sifts through the stories she’s inherited about her elusive, jazz-singing mother and the nearly mythic matriarch, her great-grandmother Greta. Each tale is steeped in the family’s folkloric Polish tradition and haunted by the rusulka—a spirit that inspired Dvorak’s classic opera.

Merging elements from Bel Canto and Amy and Isabelle, The Daughters reveals through four generations the sensuous but precise physicality of both music and motherhood, and—most mysterious and seductive of all—the resonant ancestral lore that binds each mother to the one who came before.

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  • Liveright Publishing
  • Hardcover
  • August 2015
  • 272 Pages
  • 9781631490453

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$24.95

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About Adrienne Celt

Adrienne Celt's work has been published in Esquire, the Kenyon Review, the Rumpus, and elsewhere, and she holds an MFA from Arizona State University. She lives in Tucson, and she has a Polish grandmother of her own.

Praise

“A haunting novel with real emotional depth, Celt's psychologically nuanced debut continues to resonate long after the last page has been turned.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“[A] modern fairy tale that had me up from my chair in standing ovation.”Sarah McCoy, New York Times and international best-selling author of The Mapmaker’s Children

“[A] resonant meditation on the way our stories at once shape and sabotage our lives.”—Publishers Weekly

“A beautifully written exploration of the myths and the realities that bind families together that will leave readers eagerly awaiting Celt’s next novel.”—Booklist

Discussion Questions

Lulu believes the function of stories is to “teach our brains to dream.” What do you think is the purpose of storytelling in this narrative?

Do you think John really suspects Kara is not his own daughter? If so, why do you think he chooses not to confront Lulu?

Compare the myth of the rusulka with the tale of the dark figure who approaches Greta in the forest; what do each of these suggest about Lulu’s legacy, and her fate as an artist and mother?

Lulu seems deeply aware of her sensory surroundings, and is particularly sensitive to touch and sound. Her spine “cracks” as she shifts in her chair, sound “breaks into brittle sheets of paper,” a voice is “spongelike;” what do you think this reveals of her character?

Before giving birth, Lulu often describes her body as “tightly wound,” but after having Kara her body is loosened, expansive, “cracked open.” What does this seem to suggest of Lulu’s experience of motherhood?

When Lulu says of John that he “makes the world what he wants it to be,” what do you think she means? How would you describe John?

Did you enjoy the structure of the narrative? How do you think the back and forth movement emphasizes or mirrors certain themes of the novel?

Why do you think Sara leaves Ada and Lulu behind? What effect does her absence have on Lulu?

Often the stories told in the novel—from Ada’s rich folktales and Sara’s playful games to Lulu’s childhood fantasies—take an unexpected turn. Why do you think that is?

How does Ada handle her grief over losing Greta, and the loss of her home in the wake of war? How does her grief compare to Lulu’s?

What do you make of the differences in Greta’s story when Ada and Sara tell it?

Why does John’s rabbit story hold such significance for Lulu? What does it seem tell her about him, about their relationship?

Which character do you sympathize with most in the story?

How did you feel about the ending? Do you feel hopeful for Lulu and her relationship with Sara? Her relationship with Kara?