Review: Not Her Daughter by Rea Frey

Not My Daughter by Rea Frey
Release Date: August 21, 2018
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Genre: Adult, Women's Fiction, Thriller & Suspense
Source: ARC provided by publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review
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Gripping, emotional, and wire-taut, Not Her Daughter raises the question of what it means to be a mother—and how far someone will go to keep a child safe.

Emma Townsend. Five years old. Gray eyes, brown hair. Missing since June.

Emma is lonely. Living with her cruel mother and clueless father, Emma retreats into her own world of quiet and solitude.

Sarah Walker. Successful entrepreneur. Broken-hearted. Kidnapper.

Sarah has never seen a girl so precious as the gray-eyed child in a crowded airport terminal. When a second-chance encounter with Emma presents itself, Sarah takes her—far away from home. But if it’s to rescue a little girl from her damaging mother, is kidnapping wrong?

Amy Townsend. Unhappy wife. Unfit mother. Unsure whether she wants her daughter back.

Amy’s life is a string of disappointments, but her biggest issue is her inability to connect with her daughter. And now Emma is gone without a trace.

As Sarah and Emma avoid the nationwide hunt, they form an unshakeable bond. But what about Emma’s real mother, back at home?


Not Her Daughter completely surprised me. I had heard numerous good things about it - almost all the reviews on Goodreads are 4 or 5 stars - and the synopsis had me intrigued. I expected to like it but I never expected to love it as much as I did. This book grabbed my heart from the start and never let it go.  

Simply put, Not Her Daughter is a whirlwind of a read. It made me feel so many different emotions - happiness, sadness, hope, anger, etc. I feared yet anticipated the ending. How could it possibly end happily for everyone? More importantly, did I want it to end happily for everyone? I wasn't too sure...

Not Her Daughter starts off slow. The reader is slowly immersed into the lives of Sarah Walker and Amy Townshed, two women who couldn't be any more different yet are connected through a little girl named Emma. 

Sarah had a difficult childhood. Her mother wasn't much of a mother, forever making Sarah feel as if she was a burden rather than a blessing. Even to this day it has a strong hold on Sarah. No matter how much she accomplishes, it's a pain that forever lingers. At first, I didn't know if I liked or disliked Sarah. One part of me felt so incredibly bad for her. It was easy to see how much she was hurting from her past as well as her recent break-up, and I could somewhat understand why she would be so desperate to save a child from pain and disappoint like hers. On the other side, I didn't like how willing she was to grab a child. While I know obsessions can grab ahold of someone, sometimes it was hard to believe that a women who was so successful, so steadfast would do something as reckless as go on the run with a child. Throughout the book, I shifted back and forth with my feelings. Did she have good intentions? Yes. Did she go about them in the right way? No. But did she love Emma? Completely! Her bond with Emma was one of my favorite parts of the book. It was heartwarming yet bittersweet, and it made me happy to see how much they helped one another. 

Amy, on the other hand, is struggling. Struggling with the challenges of motherhood, a marriage based on settling rather than love, and the overwhelming desire that something was missing in her life, that she took the wrong path. I could see that Amy was doing the best that she could, but at the same time, I didn't approve of her actions. I didn't like that she bullied her daughter, that she was so willing to lie to the police to save face. It wasn't right; however, as more was revealed about her past, my empathy towards her increased. At the end of the day, she was broken. Did it excuse her behavior? No, but I still wanted her to find peace as well as happiness even if it meant turning her whole world upside down. Her bond with Emma was much different than Sarah's. Even though she knew she shouldn't, she resented Emma, sometimes she was even a tad jealous of her. It was hard to stomach, but it was realistic. 

Not Her Daughter switches back and forth between Amy and Sarah's POVs and shows during three time periods (before the kidnapping, during the kidnapping, and the aftermath). I thought Rea did a great job of developing both voices. The book wouldn't be the same without both, and I appreciated how they should two very different type of women - one who wanted a child so desperately and one who regretted ever having children. The plot here mainly focuses on the kidnapping; however, it also includes details about both women's pasts. While this book can't exactly be described as an edge-of-your-seat thriller, it's still a readable, addicting story. I devoured the entire book in one sitting simply because I needed to know what would happen next. Would Sarah return Emma? Would Amy tell the truth? What went wrong in both of their lives? Those were the questions swirling around in my head. I also appreciated the way in which Rea went about discussing abduction. The abduction storyline, in particular wasn't very black-and-white. There was many layers to it, and it truly made me think. For most of the book, I was torn. I didn't know who I wanted to "win" - Amy or Sarah - but I did know one thing: I wanted Emma to be happy. 

Bittersweet as well as thought provoking, Rea Frey's Not Her Daughter is the kind of that makes me wish I was part of a book club, because I want to discuss it with everyone! 

5 stars!!

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting! I feel like I wouldn't know who to root for, either!


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