Local woman’s first novel based on life experience
Jamaica Plain resident Randy Susan Meyers’ first novel, released this month by St. Martin’s Press, was inspired by a horrific event in her own childhood and colored by years of work in human services.
“The Murderer’s Daughters” tells the story of two courageous sisters and their journey to rise above the damage of family violence.
Bella Luna will be the site of a launch party for “The Murderer’s Daughters” on Jan. 21 from 7 to 9 p.m. [See Happenings.] Proceeds from book sales that night will go to the Home for Little Wanderers.
The first chapter of the book recounts an event in Meyers’ childhood through the lens of one of the main characters. When Meyers was 4 years old, she said in a recent interview, her mother warned her 8-year-old sister not to let her father into their apartment. Her sister let him in, and he tried to kill their mother. The police arrived shortly after; the girls’ mother survived.
The novel explores what could have happened if the father had succeeded in killing the mother. “The Murderer’s Daughters” follows Lulu and Merry Zachariah after the murder of their mother and the imprisonment of their father.
“The book told hold of me. I couldn’t stop writing it,” said Meyers, a Forest Hills resident, in a recent interview. Meyers moved with her husband to JP in November 2008 after living in Mission Hill for more than 30 years. Her daughters are grown, and she has a 3-year-old granddaughter.
The book has been greeted with rave reviews. For example, Book of the Month Club called the novel, “A riveting debut.”
Meyers said she worked on “The Murderer’s Daughters” for 18 months. “I was very lucky in getting it published,” she said. “It took me three months from the time I sent my query letter to my agent to signing with her. She made some suggestions, and I revised the manuscript one more time. In a miracle of a surprise, she sold the book in eight days.”
Before writing full-time, Meyers was the assistant director of Common Purpose, a certified batterer intervention program in JP. Previous to that, she worked for the City of Boston as an associate director for Boston Community Centers, and before that as the director of the Mission Hill Community Centers.
The novel addresses the different coping mechanisms of children who are victims of domestic violence. “They either become ‘super people’ by entering helping professions, like Lulu, or they fall apart, like Merry,” said Meyers.
The book’s themes are the connection of sisters, raising oneself in the world, and feeling isolated, invisible and lost, according to Meyers. The novel also poses the question of how family is defined.
“People never think about what happens to the children. They are the forgotten victims of domestic violence. They are the collateral damage,” said Meyers.
Meyers’ work with batterers and victims of abuse also inspired her to write the novel. At Common Purpose, she worked closely with batterers who were ordered into the program by the court. She said the men denied their acts of violence to themselves “because they weren’t proud of what they had done…I hated what the men had done, but I learned how to be empathetic with them,” said Meyers.
Meyers also worked with the women who had been abused by the men in the programs.
Through the novel, Meyers said she hopes she can provide a sense of relief and of not being alone to readers who have gone through similar experiences.
The most rewarding part of writing the book, said Meyers, was following the sisters throughout their lives. “The characters became so real that the reward was being with them on their journey to find their way out of the fog,” said Meyers.
Meyers said she hopes people will get a great read out of the book, “I hope they get lost in it.”
Meyers has also co-authored a nonfiction book titled “Couples with Children” and has also written short stories. She is working on another book now.
“The Murderer’s Daughters” will be sold locally, nationally and internationally. For more information, visit www.randysusanmeyers.com.