eBook Review Copy, 352 pages
Jenny is a successful family doctor, the mother of three great teenagers, married to a celebrated neurosurgeon.
But when her youngest child, fifteen-year-old Naomi, doesn't come home after her school play, Jenny's seemingly ideal life begins to crumble. The authorities launch a nationwide search with no success. Naomi has vanished, and her family is broken.
As the months pass, the worst-case scenarios—kidnapping, murder—seem less plausible. The trail has gone cold. Yet, for a desperate Jenny, the search has barely begun. More than a year after her daughter's disappearance, she's still digging for answers—and what she finds disturbs her. Everyone she's trusted, everyone she thought she knew, has been keeping secrets, especially Naomi. Piecing together the traces her daughter left behind, Jenny discovers a very different Naomi from the girl she thought she'd raised.
Jenny knows she'll never be able to find Naomi unless she uncovers the whole truth about her daughter—a twisting, painful journey into the past that will lead to an almost unthinkable revelation. . . .
Daughter by Jane Shemilt is a recommended debut novel about the breakdown of a family.
"It’s easier than you think to lose sight of what matters," says Jenny, a GP in Bristol, England. Jenny and her husband Ted, a neurosurgeon, are the parents of three teenagers: 17-year-old twins, Ed and Theo, and 15-year-old Naomi. When Naomi fails to come home on the second night of performance for her school play, the police are called in to try and unravel what has happened to Jenny. As the investigation plods along, Jenny realizes that she didn't know Naomi, or her boys, as well as she thought she did.
The novel switches back and forth in time, going from Naomi's disappearance to a year later when Jenny is living alone in her family's vacation cottage in Dorset. We know, then, that Naomi is still missing a year later and we know that other events have taken place to disintegrate the fragile family bonds that Jenny thought were so strong. Apparently for years Jenny has been turning a blind eye to clues that were all around her regarding her whole family, not only Naomi. Shemilt also touches on mistakes doctors can make as well as mistakes parents can make.
While this certainly is not a bad debut novel, there were a few problems for me. The first half of the novel moves very slowly. I kept with it hoping to find out what happened, but some of that was a sense of duty from accepting a review copy. Jenny is a well-developed character, but the rest of the family remains largely a mystery. Sure, we don't always know other people as well as we think we do, but Jenny is taking the blame being thrown at her for not seeing this or doing that, while Ted is basically being given a pass for all these things he should have noticed too. Her son Ed is a spoiled brat who needs to be told to stop blaming others for his decisions. Naomi is really a mystery. Jenny thinks she was one way when she obviously wasn't. Finally, the ending of Daughter may irritate some readers because there is no closure, just more unanswered questions and unresolved issues.
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of HarperCollins for review purposes