Study Guide

How I Live Now Family

By Meg Rosoff

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I stayed there and thought about my old home which unfortunately led to thinking about Davina the Diabolical, who sucked my father's soul out through his you know what and then got herself knocked up with the devil's spawn […] (1.4.4)

So, Daisy's home life kind of stunk. We're detecting just the slightest bit of bitterness in Daisy's colorful language and nicknames and rambling stream-of-consciousness, are you?

[…] in the end she got me sent off to live with a bunch of cousins I'd never met a few thousand miles away while she and Dad and the devil's spawn went on their merry way. If she was making even the slightest attempt to address centuries of bad press for stepmothers, she scored a Big Fat Zero. (1.4.5)

Despite Daisy's usual nonchalance and I-don't-care-about-anything attitude, it's clear that her father siding with Davina against her stings deep. And despite her nickname for her soon-to-be-born half-sibling, she's holding on to a lot of jealousy that this kid will get the life she won't.

Dad was one of those Never Mention Her Name Again type of fathers which if you ask me was extremely un-psychologically correct of him. (1.5.10)

Sarcasm much? But it's no wonder Daisy has all the issues she does, what with getting labeled a murderer on her first day of life when her mom died and her father refusing ever to discuss the issue with her. It's clear that poor Daisy still blames herself.

Aunt Penn […] said When your mother phoned to tell me she was pregnant, she sounded happier than she'd ever sounded in her whole life about that baby. (1.6.8)

Daisy's fireside heart-to-heart with Aunt Penn, her mother's sister, represents the first time in her life she's able to talk about her mother or learn anything about who she was, and as such, is a very emotional experience for both of them.

I tried to pull myself together because I was Piper's guardian now and I thought I'd better act like it and make it clear to her that she was safe with me no matter what. And the thought made me fierce and strong like a mother wildebeest and all of a sudden I knew where people got the strength to pick up cars with babies lying under them which I always thought was made up. (1.15.10)

Aw, how sweet. Daisy experiences true unconditional love for the first time—like, ever—in this moment. It's like her heart of stone just melted into a big goopy puddle. The lifting up cars thing also foreshadows the rest of the book, where it turns out she will do just about anything to protect Piper.

And she said, I always wanted a sister and if I had one I would want her to be like you. […] I didn't tell her that I had never wanted a sister, in actual fact had spent most of my recent life desperately NOT wanting a sister, but that was only because of the circumstances in which I was likely to get one and besides I never imagined how much I could come to love someone like Piper. (1.16.14-18)

Looks like the familial feeling between Piper and Daisy is mutual. This is a big moment for Daisy because it's the first time she's heard someone express wanting her as a part of their family, and she realizes that she wants to be a part of it, too.

Given that I had about as much experience with sex and boyfriends as I did with brothers and sisters, it was pretty strange to find myself suddenly overwhelmed with attention from the world's biggest warehouse of magical misfits. And just to complicate matters perfectly, I was starting to feel responsible for their safety and happiness. (1.16.24)

Ah, how things have shifted from the days when Daisy's cousins doted on her and brought her tea—now she feels responsible for taking care of them. And despite calling them misfits, the affection in her voice is clear, and she's obviously thrilled to have people whose well-being really matters to her.

I held Piper's hand and told her over and over that I loved her through the blood beating in my veins and running through my hand and into her fingers. Her hand started out limp and cold like a dead thing but I willed it back to life. (1.26.33)

Remember that foreshadowing earlier where Daisy understands the motherly instinct to lift up a car to save her child? Well, here's the moment it comes into play, as Daisy will do whatever she can (okay, so maybe it's not quite on par with automobile-lifting) to save Piper.

The soldier stamped my passport FAMILY in heavy black capital letters and I checked it now for reassurance and because I liked how fierce the word looked. (2.2.34)

Despite six years away from her cousins, back home with her father, stepmother, and the spawn, Daisy longs for what she now feels is her true family. The bold, capital letters on her passport seem to resonate with Daisy as she feels a fierce, animalistic instinct to love and protect them.

Isaac survived because he listened to animals. He could help them, which makes pain bearable. And Piper? Piper had me. By saving Piper I saved myself, and all the things that might have killed us were also the things that saved us. (2.6.8)

The family is back together, regrouping after the ravages of war separated them and beat them down. The mention of "saving" here brings us back to the beginning of the novel, when Daisy was a troubled teenager starving herself for attention and in need of some saving herself. For the first time, Daisy acknowledges the ways in which having someone besides herself to live and care for has saved her.

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