Monday, April 8, 2024

Darling Girls

Darling Girls by Sally Hepworth
4/23/24; 368 pages
St. Martin's Press

Darling Girls by Sally Hepworth is a domestic psychological thriller following three survivors from events that happened in a foster home. It is a highly recommended page turner.

Jessica, Norah, and Alicia are sisters by choice and remain close after a traumatic childhood. They met at a foster home called Wild Meadows Farms and all endured abuse from foster mother, Holly Fairchild. Twenty-five years have passed and the house is currently being torn down to build a McDonalds. The excavation has unearth human remains and now the police have asked Jessica, Norah, and Alicia to return to Port Agatha for questioning. Returning to Port Agatha and talking to the police brings back the pain.

The narrative follows the point-of-view of four characters -the three sisters and an unnamed person talking to a psychiatrist. Additionally there are past and present timelines so we meet the sisters as adults and also as children enduring the machinations of Miss Fairchild. As adults they are all still suffering from some repercussions from their childhood traumas and the past chapters detail what happened to them.

The well-written plot is very intriguing, twisty, and will immediately grab your attention. However, where the novel really shines is in the fully-realized characters who resemble real individuals with faults and fails. They immediately garner your empathy and support. The subject matter, abuse of foster children, is weighty and grim. The bond the three sisters-by-choice have, based on their shared experiences is more intense and enduring than that which many biological sisters share. Even Miss Fairchild felt like a real person

The narrative unfolds through the eyes of these sisters in both the present and the past. The person talking to the psychiatrist is not revealed until later, but that story line is is also interesting, even though the psychiatrist seems incompetent. Included in the narrative are even some light moments of humor that help with the dark mood, as do the three large dogs. The twisty ending was a surprise but there was one reveal that actually fell flat for me and lowered my rating, but any Sally Hepworth novel is worth reading. Thanks to St. Martin's Press for providing me with an advance reader's copy via NetGalley. My review is voluntary and expresses my honest opinion.

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