by Anita Lounsbach
” ‘You need to love and be loved more as you get older, not less.’ “
What makes a family a family? Is it the dysfunction that all groups of blood-related people seem to have in common? The private jokes and tidy memories that only your clan shares? Is it the fact that you all have the same nose or the same color eyes, the same tilt to your head when you are deep in contemplation or the same laugh? Maybe it’s just a deep-rooted loyalty. Built-in friendships. A hard pass given to outsiders who threaten the well-being of any of your family members, even if you might be willing to cut them deeply yourself, relying on the forgiveness that is always given because you are . . . family.
Daisy is the matriarch of her family, a shining jewel atop a tree of sparkling ornamental women. She’s strong and hardworking and full of the silent blessings that a stringent routine gives someone of her age. Her best friend Maude is her partner in crime, albeit Daisy is usually the one actually committing the crimes . . . crimes of gossip and vicious bargain hunting, sins of vanity and self-absorption. As a woman well into her 80’s, she is on a constant run from reality when it comes to her age, believing instead that as long as she keeps going and keeps her priorities and routine in check, that she will always be there to look upon the women who share her blood and are part of her chain.
Ida is Daisy’s daughter and a tougher broad couldn’t be found if you searched high and low for a decade. Having loved and having lost, Ida now finds her fleeting comfort in the arms of strangers and single nights of passion, never feeling sorry for herself or for that matter – others. Ida lives practically and efficiently and in a world of black and white with very little color blurring the edges, and she has a hard time understanding her elderly mother. Daisy should give in to her age, in Ida’s opinion. She should accept the fact that she can no longer hit the streets and galavant around town drinking like a fish or flirting with men. Daisy should behave, for a better word. Life is not a jewel box full of diamonds and rubies, like Daisy treats it – it’s more a tin box full of rhinestones and chipped glass.
” Confronting point number four again along with others, Ida reckoned that her and Freda showed more signs of wear and tear in that area than Daisy if they were to bother to count their own lapses; the times they hadn’t quite managed to get to the lavatory in time, followed by the countless times they mislaid things, the times they forgot things, the times they repeated things, the times they forgot things, the times they repeated themselves. Where was the justice in that? She’d spent years going on and on trying to enforce in Daisy a smattering of reality; firstly to connect her up to the reality of facing up to where she as in the scheme of things. And secondly, being cruel to be kind, connect her to where her next stop was bound to be. And where had it got her? Nowhere, Daisy could never see the ghost train a comin’. And if she did, it was always on its way to pick up some other poor old sod, never herself.
At each and every new confrontation or well-worn repeat, endeavoring to get Daisy to see herself as others saw her, Ida drew a blank. Daisy took everything for granted and defied all logic. Much in the same way as now: Refusing to listen to reason by refusing to listen. Nothing changed. “
To her two sisters and mother, Helen is the one of them who has it all. She’s the one who’s made it, laying her head down for the night on silken sheets in a mansion properly set with a well-tended English garden and live-in help. She has a matched set of twin boys, Roger and Richard, and she devotes her days to making sure their well being is top notch with perfectly pressed identical sweater sets and crustless sandwiches. When Helen packs a suitcase and leaves it all behind – the rich husband, the massive home, the luxury car, and most importantly, the two boys – Ida can’t see straight for all of the red hot anger blazing in her eyes. Doesn’t Helen know how good she has it? What kind of a person just leaves their children? Most importantly, what kind of person leaves all that money?
Finding an awkward sanctuary at her grandmother’s home (a tiny apartment Daisy was pushed into by Ida when her daughter insisted that she could no longer live alone) Helen is struggling to pull herself out of a cumbersome and thick depression. Life with her husband is something that no one in her family could ever understand, their comprehension beginning and ending with the monetary gains and security Helen was privy to while being married. How could she ever explain the emotional abuse or the mental cruelty inflicted upon her every single day of life with her husband. . . the ticking, chipping, and tearing away of her very soul in minute pieces by a man who had never found her worthy and only looked at her as a poor replacement to his previous wife? She’d had to get out and the only way was to simply rip the Band-Aid off and do it; but it’s not to say that her heart isn’t broken. Helen vows to get her life together one tiny baby step at a time, and then send for her boys.
” She stared at him suspiciously. How many times had she heard his voice breaking to order? Always breaking at precisely the right moment, the moment when she had gleaned, from out of nowhere, a modicum of strength. The knack he had of producing what he thought were perfect responses whenever the need arose, emotional shock treatment aimed to seduce, flawlessly executed and brilliantly timed, responses to suit all occasions, an ability she considered a gift, invariably used as a means to an end in the work place or in the home. All this she measured at a distance with a keenly programmed eye: if only there was an invisible video recording every detail: opening lines, theatrical entrance, the habit he had of craning his neck this way and that like a shuttle on a piece of elastic, eyes forever hunting missing nothing but the point: an action-packed production lacking authenticity, emotionally incapable of producing anything other than a blank screen.
He looked well. He hadn’t missed her. He wasn’t capable. He didn’t want her back and if he did — whatever for?
Jo is the brains of the family. The only one of the Connelly sisters to have any formal education, she is determined to make something of herself and do it the right way. Used as a sounding board and voice of reason by most members of her family, Jo wishes she could in turn actually confide in them. She’s been harboring a secret for ages and it’s beginning to take a toll on the most important relationship in her life – the one with her life partner, Sandra. Does family come first? Or does love?
Eve is the baby, and no one will ever let her forget it. She wonders what her sisters and insufferable mother would think if they knew she was forging her own future without their input or permission – and with her sister’s estranged husband, no less. How Helen could leave her wealthy lifestyle Eve will never know or understand, but she is determined to take her sister’s place and not let the bed get too cold in the process.
Daisy is the chain that holds them all together, for better or for worse. While she may not understand her daughter or her granddaughters most of the time, the real trouble is that they don’t seem to understand her at all. Taking for granted that she a little old lady who knows nothing of the world or their problems, they forget that in Daisy’s age she has seen and lived it all, and holds within her a grasp of understanding and wisdom that can only be found at her age.
Daisy Chains is the debut novel by Anita Lounsbach, a 77 year-old retired nurse who has pulled from her own life experiences to create a novel based around the stages of women and the different issues each part of life possesses. From Eve who is in her early 20’s to Daisy who is in her mid-80’s and several decades between, Daisy Chains explores the roles each woman in a particular bracket of life is not only involved in, but also what is expected of them. While the body may age and betray oneself, the mind and heart and soul tends to remain young and ambitious, often viewing ourselves differently than reality would have it.
While the premise is fresh and the characters are richly drawn, I was disappointed with the lack of a clear plot in Daisy Chains. I believe that the author may have intended to show shades of each character in their particular facet of life, but in doing so, there was no real underlying guideline that pulled them all together. With the exception of Daisy, I could not believe that any of the women would ever turn to the other for much of anything, as they did not seem to like each other at all. The chapters were instead of an actual story, simply snapshots of each woman’s day and avenues of life, with no real objective. With no real beginning, middle, climax, or end, things just began to run together at some point. The author has a simply beautiful way of describing places, people, actions, and emotions, but without a clear plot I was left feeling bored and uninvested. For this I have to give Daisy Chains a 3 out of 5 star rating.
The character of Daisy is one that I will carry with me for a long time. She wants so badly to be taken seriously and to be appreciated, but because of her age, she is often relegated to the background or treated as a mere ornament. Daisy is so tired of being told what to do and treated like a child, and it hurts her to feel as if she is more of a burden to her family than anything else. I just wanted to give Daisy a hug, take her to lunch, and show her some appreciation, and I was thankful that the author left some room for Daisy to grow with the closing of the book.
” Whether she looked up to the sky or down at the tubs of winter flowering pansies, or to the grass that was kept so neat surrounding the church, anything and everything that Daisy found to be noteworthy, pausing in her mind ready to be photographed, never quite reaching her inner spirit. Her spirit, she decided, as she sat in the square feeding the pigeons, blending in with the other elderly people, feeling half the woman she once ways, if that, was on ice.
She was the one on ice: worrying about everything that had and was happening, on top of whether the part of her that was worth cherishing had silently passed away with her knowledge, blaming whatever was up there for the loss of her zest for life. Having given up on the heavens, doubly doubting whether the spark could ever be re-kindled. “