Synopses & Reviews
Set in the 1930s, Maggie grows up in logging camps and small towns of Oregon while living in the midst of a troubled family with an abusive father. As she matures from a feisty tomboy of 8 to a young woman of 14, Maggie buys her first bra, discovers a best friend also can be a boyfriend, and struggles with the leering advances of older men.
About the Author
Mollie Poupeney is a nationally recognized ceramic artist. She divides her time between Moraga, California, and Ashland, Oregon.
Reading Group Guide
An unflinching novel of self-discovery from a powerful new voice in YA literature.
The rich landscape of Oregon's logging country in the 1930s provides fertile ground for Maggie Morrison to grow up, but it is not a gentle world she lives in. There are good times, when she bests her brother at boxing or enjoys a rare piece of candy. But there are bad times, too, when her father comes home smelling of alcohol, when her mother cries. As she matures from a fiesty tomboy of 81/2 to a spirited young woman of 14, Maggie buys her first bra, discovers that a best friend can also be a boyfriend, and struggles with the leering advances of older men. The only constant in her life of endless new homes and new faces is her ever-emerging sense of herself.
Unadorned and beautifully written, Her Father's Daughter tells the story of a girl who faces life with the spirit of a fighter and the soul of an artist.
1. Discuss the meaning of the title. Maggie’s father is largely absent from her life. Even when he’s present, he offers her little emotional support. And through most of the novel, he does not live with the family. Why did Mollie Poupeney name the novel Her Father’s Daughter? What is it about Maggie that makes her “her father’s daughter”
2. The novel is told in a series of episodes in Maggie’s life, with the link being either the presence or absence of her father. Between the chapters “Daddy for Sale” and “Big Boy Now,” there is a gap of almost two years. Fill in that gap. Imagine what might have transpired.
3. Maggie knows that she has no say in what happens to her. “Like somebody else gets to be the boss of my life all the time.” (p. 139) How is this true for most kids?
4. Maggie’s relationship with men in the novel is problematic. While she loves her father and is very much like him, he is an alcoholic, abusive, and neglectful. Her mother’s boss and Uncle Lester abuse her. How might this affect her relationships later in life?
5. Throughout the story, Maggie is allowed to go just about anywhere she wants by herself. Do you see this as parental neglect or just the nature of the time and place? How does it compare with the way things are now?
6. Her Father’s Daughter spans seven years of Maggie’s life. How does she change from the beginning of the novel to the end?
7. The author’s descriptions of even the secondary characters in the novel–Goofy John, Aunt Fern, Aunt Ramona, Uncle Lester, Buddy, Buddy’s grandma, and Beverly–are so clear you can easily see them in your mind’s eye. Which characters would you like to invite to your book group or to your house for dinner? Why?
8. “First, I decide I will begin with very small bites. But all of a sudden, there goes the whole thing right in my mouth. One bite, and all this sweet cherry juice is squirting on my tongue and filling the back of my throat! . . . I want it to last forever.” (pp. 29—30) Pick a favorite candy or food and describe eating it in the same way that Maggie describes eating those two chocolate-covered cherries.
9. Her Father’s Daughter is filled with figures of speech–such as “take a long walk off a short pier,” “spit in the wind,” “six shingles short of a shed roof,” and “see a man about a horse”–that were commonly used in the logging towns of the Pacific Northwest during the 1930s. Talk about what each expression means.
10. Maggie’s school friend Tomi Katayama and her family are interned in a camp, as were thousands of Japanese Americans during World War II. What does this say about the mood of the country during the war? Is this something that could happen again to another group of people given the present state of affairs?
11. The Depression was “hard times” for most people living in America, but it was even more so for Maggie and her family. Why was life so hard for them? What is the turning point in the novel when things seem to get a little better?
This guide was prepared by Clifford Wohl, educational consultant.