⇒What would make you do the unthinkable? Sarah Walker finds out in this gripping thriller that will suck you into an emotional whirlwind!⇐
**Many thanks to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.
by Rea Frey
(4.17 stars – Goodreads rating)
Publish Date: August 21, 2018, by St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Women’s Fiction / Thriller
Format: Kindle Edition
Pages: 352 pages (Paperback)
I had a choice to make, a bluff to call, and a girl to protect. I had no idea what to do next.
I don’t know if you believe in astrology at all. Usually, I only give it the faintest corner of my attention. But, as a designated Libra (October 13th), I found my scales woefully unbalanced and wobbling all over the place as I read this book about a kidnapper, a mother, and the grey-eyed girl that comes between them.
As a mother myself, I automatically know which side of that battle I’m supporting, right? Not necessarily. And that’s only one reason why this book had me on the edge of my seat and at the border of my morals with every chapter.
That’s what I’m going with: my intention to keep her safe. In spite of the facts, in spite of what I’ve done. Because it feels right. Being with Emma feels right.
Here’s the gist: Sarah Walker is really minding her own business, waiting for a flight, when she witnesses something that she hasn’t been able to shake: a mother being physically and verbally abusive to her young daughter. Sarah, young and successful, but childless and just recently single again, can’t seem to forget about the beautiful grey-eyed girl with the red dress and red hairbow that seemed to desperately need someone’s help. Days later, when their paths randomly cross again, Sarah knows what she has to do, but that one decision will change everything about her life forever.
Amy Townsend is tired. She has two kids, a job, and a husband who is more like a milquetoast roommate. She’s overweight, overloaded, and just over all of it. Sure she loses her temper sometimes, what tired mother with the strain of kids and career doesn’t? Sure she lashes out at life – and her obnoxious daughter – sometimes. Does that make her a bad parent? There’s just something about Emma that just pulls the anger out of her. It’s like she’s asking for it. So Amy gives it to her.
Emma just wants to play and have fun. Hey, she’s five!
Emma was the chaos, and now, in her absence, there was even more. She was like a tiny wrecking ball, knocking down everything in her path just to see how much damage she could get away with.
Not Her Daughter had me in my emotions from the very first chapter. I am constantly concerned with where my daughter is and making sure she’s safe and happy. So, it was hard for me to (1) initially connect with what Sarah wanted to do, and (2) feel any sympathy whatsoever for Emma’s parents and their collective lack of care for their daughter. While reading, I battled with questions like: As a reader how am I supposed to feel about Sarah’s intentions? What about as a parent? Or as a moral, ethical human being? And once you read this book, you may find that, like me, those questions came with three totally different answers.
As the book progressed, I found myself flip-flopping over whether or not Sarah was a hero or a villain. I settled on Antihero. There’s no way in the world her actions could be justified, and yet…
Just for the record, I never sided with Amy, Emma’s mom. She’s a nasty piece of work and I wanted to smack her with a jelly roll every time she spoke. Mean old bat.
Written in multiple POVs, across four different timelines (“before”, “during”, “after”, and “now” – all in relation to the kidnapping), and in both first and third person, Not Her Daughter could have been quite confusing if not for Frey’s careful and patient story and character development. There’s a lot of jumping around from past to near past to present to an even more present present, but trust me, you’ll get it. It flows.
I initially liked the same characters that I ended up criticizing later, and vice versa. There are no guarantees in this book, and that makes for great storytelling. If I had any reservations, it would be that a couple of strings were left hanging for me: What happens with the relationship between Sarah and her mom? In this day and age, where was any mention of video surveillance of Sarah and Emma as they shopped or stopped for gas or ate in restaurants? Isn’t that how many kidnappers get caught? And another string that I can’t really mention because it would be a spoiler, but it left me with some questions.
4.5 well-earned stars for this wonderful read that left me battling both my ethics and my morals and still coming up with question marks. What would I have done? Would I have been as brave? As stupid? I love the books that make you question life choices this way!
About the Author
Rea Frey is the author of four nonfiction books. Her debut novel, NOT HER DAUGHTER, will be released by St. Martin’s Press August 21, 2018.
When she’s not exercising, mothering, adulting, wifing, eating, or writing about herself in the third person, you can find her hard at work on her next book and ghostwriting for other people.
(Bio taken from Goodreads)