The Daughter by Jane Shemilt
Published by William Morrow ISBN 9780062320476
Trade paperback, $14.99, 341 pages
Jenny is a hardworking doctor, married to a successful surgeon and mother to three teenagers. Her fifteen-year-old daughter Naomi has been acting distant lately, which bothers Jenny since they have always been close. She attributes it to all the pressures of school, working hard on the school play and just normal teenage angst.
Then one night Jenny doesn't come home from play rehearsal. Jenny and Ted call her friends, drive around the town, and still no Naomi. Shemilt captures the raw fear and panic of realizing that your child is missing. Any parent reading it will have a visceral reaction to this story.
The story is told in alternating time lines, from the day she disappears and then one year later, with Naomi still gone and no answers from the police. Writing it this way made the story stronger for me, knowing that Naomi hasn't been found allows the reader to concentrate on the emotions of the family, rather than the actual search for Naomi.
Naomi's disappearance reveals many secrets about Jenny's family. She discovers that the things she believes to be true about her marriage and her children aren't necessarily so. Naomi hid many things from her mother, and one thing you find from reading The Daughter is that you may think you know everything about your children, but they may have an entirely different life than the one you think they do.
Watching Jenny suffer through her daughter's disappearance is tough. She tries to get through each day, wondering where her daughter is and what happened to her. Then there are the reactions of her two sons; as time goes on, she discovers things about them she never thought possible.
I'm not sure how I feel about the resolution to the story. It is definitely one that will engender conversation and controversy. One of our members said she felt it fell flat at the end, and she wasn't crazy about the characters.
The Daughter is a suspense thriller that does make a good book club pick because it will have people, especially mothers of teenagers, talking. It provokes strong reactions, and as a mother to sons, I wonder if I have a different reaction than mothers of daughters.