Caroline’s Daughters

Adams, Alice. Caroline’s Daughters. New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1991.

I have to preface this by saying this was a very quick read. The characters keep you glued to the page. One of the major themes of Adams’s Caroline’s Daughters is dissatisfaction. To start with, Caroline has five daughters from three different marriages and each one couldn’t be more different from the another. The only thing they really have in common, besides their biological mother, is the need for something more in their lives. Eldest daughter Sage is a failing ceramics artist with a philandering husband. What disturbed me about her story is that everyone around her knows her husband is a cheat but no one has that conversation with her. Overweight Liza is mother to three but wants to be a writer. She is the only one who is truly satisfied, relationship-wise…at least she thinks she is (stay tuned). Fiona is a restauranteur who really doesn’t like food and can’t keep a boyfriend. Jill, as a stockbroker lawyer, is fixated on wealth so much so she has prostituted herself for the excitement and extra cash. Portia, the youngest, simply doesn’t know what she wants. Her sexuality as well as her entire life is ambiguous. True to all sibling rivalries, there is competition and jealousy among all five of them. In the midst of all this chaos is Caroline, powerless to help her daughters find their way. She has her own drama to deal with when her third husband suffers a debilitating stroke.
In addition to be a commentary on dissatisfaction, families and mother-daughter relationships, Caroline’s Daughters is a sharp look at San Francisco’s culture in the 1990s. Politics, economics, AIDS and sexuality are all common themes. It was interesting how many times Adams had a character wonder if someone in her life was gay or not.

Line that I liked, “However, despite herself she finds that she is hurrying faster, rushing against the possibility that this man could be someone she knows” (p 237). Adams is talking about the homeless, something San Francisco, as well as every other major city in the U.S., needs to address. Liza’s reaction to the homeless man is pretty typical of the wealthy.

Reason read: August is Adams’s birth month.

Author fact: There is a 1935 movie by the name of Alice Adams but it has nothing to do with author Alice Adams.

Book trivia: Caroline’s Daughters was published eight years before Adams’s death in 1999.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “A…Is For Alice” (p 1).

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