To be loved by your father is to be loved by God. So says Mona Dean—playwright, actress, and daughter of a man famous for one great novel, a man whose needs and insecurities exert an inescapable pull and exact an immeasurable toll on the women of his family: Mona, her sister, her half sister, their mothers. His infidelity destroyed Mona's childhood, setting her in opposition to a stepmother who, though equally damaged, disdains her for being broken. Then, just as Mona is settling into her life as an adult and a fledgling artist, her father begins a new affair and takes her into his confidence. Mona delights in this attention. When he inevitably confesses to his wife, Mona is cast as the agent of disruption, punished for her father's crimes and ejected from the family. Mona's tenuous stability is thrown into chaos. Only when she suffers an incalculable loss can she begin supplanting absent love with real love.
Darkly glittering ... Dey is less interested in unpacking or satirizing Paul than she is in Mona, who may be her own, more intriguing form of art monster ... [Dey] balances feverish melodrama with chilled and precise prose. The writing is streamlined, forensic ... Mona wages her own war, over her power as a writer, and as a woman. This beautiful and piercing novel is her hard-won victory.
An odd book, interesting at times — it's a noble attempt at telling the story of a family that is dysfunctional in both garden-variety and bizarre ways. The novel doesn't work, but there are some flashes of Dey's usually excellent writing ... An intensely psychological novel, one that poses questions it doesn't, and maybe can't, answer ... While Dey is clearly a talented writer, with a gift for some memorable turns of phrase, the prose in Daughter is mostly repetitive and plodding, making it difficult for the reader to sustain interest. The novel reads like a confession without remorse, an emotional unburdening without insight ... A misfire.
It’s all very nasty and spectacular, but to what end? One problem with Daughter is that the great art intended to justify the hideous behavior is merely notional ... The real play in this novel is the attempt to fob off self-importance for actual meaning.