Jenny lives a seemingly perfect life that shatters after her youngest daughter, Naomi, disappears and is presumed dead. Many months later, Jenny and her two remaining children and her husband are still plagued by what could have happened to Naomi. Life moves on as best as it can for the rest of them, but Jenny is haunted and begins to search for answers. As she goes through her daughter’s journal and attempts to decode the cryptic entries, a very different Naomi than the one Jenny knew begins to emerge.
The Daughter is the debut from newcomer Jane Shemilt, but unfortunately didn’t live up to my expectations. I found it neither as suspenseful nor as thrilling as the early buzz had led me to believe it would be. The narrative is very disjointed, flipping between 2009 (when Naomi disappears), 2010, and 2011. Although the chapters are labeled, I still on occasion found myself having to turn back the pages to find out where exactly in the timeline I was. I’m not a huge fan of novels that use this technique, especially when it’s supposed to be a thriller. Because it begins in 2011, we already know that no one knows what happened to Naomi, and are stuck with the ramblings of her devastated mother.
Jenny struck me as an uninvolved parent; she didn’t seem to have a great relationship with any of her children. It wasn’t only Naomi that had secrets. It later comes out that one of her sons was indirectly involved in the disappearance, and had she been more attuned to her children, she may have been able to intervene.
The pacing felt slow to me, and when the truth finally comes out regarding what happened to Naomi in 2009, it felt a bit out there. I wish the author had let the reader get to know Naomi as well, possibly through flashbacks written in the third person point of view. If that had been the case, I think perhaps I could have accepted the reveal with more ease.
While I definitely cannot recommend The Daughter, I am sure it will spark the interest of some readers— especially those who are interested in slower-paced mysteries, disjointed timelines, and stream of consciousness narrators.
Jennifer graduated from the University of Utah with a BA in English. She occasionally dabbles with her own fiction writing, particularly with the Young Adult and Paranormal genres. She currently resides in Utah with her husband and daughter.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by William Morrow Paperbacks. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.