Rating: 4.0/5.0 stars
Publication Date: August 21, 2018
Main Takeaway: A thoughtful, yet enjoyable, read that makes you think about more deeply about good and bad.
**I received this novel from the author and publisher, St. Martin’s Press, in exchange for an honest review. I received no compensation for this review, and the opinions expressed were not influenced by this transaction.**
Sarah Walker is an immensely successful entrepreneur with a passion to help kids that covers up her own dismal childhood. Amy is an unwilling, resentful mother to Emma who only wants a semblance of control in her own life again. Sarah, after a chance encounter with Amy and Emma in a crowded airport terminal, becomes enamored with Emma; and after a lucky second chance to see her, Sarah kidnaps Emma to save her from the neglectful childhood that reminds her so much of her own. As Sarah and Emma race to avoid the nation-wide search for Emma, they form an incredible bond unlike anything either of them has experienced, all the while Amy must grapple with her own emotions and figure out if she really even wants to find her daughter.
The symbolism in Not Her Daughter was immaculate (though, I’ll admit, I have not been able to even look at cheese since finishing the novel), and Frey showed us all how an ugly act can be committed for all the right and beautiful reasons. Throughout the novel, Sarah and Emma were consistently described as beautiful and good, while Amy received vulgar and abrasive descriptions of her obesity and orneriness. The juxtaposition of these physical descriptions were stand-ins for the women’s individual actions, in a way. Amy’s actions of violence and rage, motivated by self-interest, were ugly in and of themselves, while Sarah’s action – kidnapping – was ugly, yet also beautiful, since Sarah acted both out of self-interest and out of a desire to help.
Not Her Daughter captured me. I fell in love with Emma and empathized with everything Sarah felt and did. Really, I never thought I’d be sitting here telling you all I could easily see myself in a kidnapper’s shoes. I despised Amy, yet at times I also felt bad for her, like she too was given an unfair stake. Not Her Daughter lays before us a terrible truth – that we’re not all given a happy, loving, or even fair life, but our lives are more than our circumstances. They are what we choose to make of them, whether full of love or hate.