The Daughter by Jane Shemilt is a novel of secrets. Family secrets. Secrets that will ultimately destroy a family.
Jenny thinks everything in her family is just fine. She and her husband, Ted, both work a lot. But the kids don't notice right? They're both home in time for dinner and are both there in the morning for breakfast. So what if Jenny and Ted both disappear into their own worlds when they get home. They both take the time to ask the kids questions about their activities. Naomi, their 15-year-old daughter, is prepping for a part in the school play. Their sons, Theo and Ed, are equally occupied with school activities. Jenny and Ted seem to have the perfect family........that is until Naomi disappears.
As the days, weeks, months, and eventually a year pass, Jenny learns about the daughter she thought she knew. The signs were there, but Jenny just chose to let them go. The faint scent of smoke on Naomi came from someone else. The scent of alcohol on her breath is because Naomi was celebrating opening night. The coat Naomi was wearing wasn't to cover up a racy outfit, it was because it was cold. The high heels she's wearing is because Naomi is experimenting with fashion. There's an explanation for everything. But how does Jenny explain Naomi's pregnancy? The secret boyfriends? The cryptic messages in Naomi's diary? And lets not forget Ted! He has his own secrets. Secrets that Jenny chooses to be blind to.
The book alternates between the past and the present. With each chapter the book gets closer and closer to what happened to Naomi. Each day Naomi is missing, sends Jenny deeper and deeper into despair. That despair exposes her children's true feelings. Before and after Naomi disappeared, Jenny would find solace in her drawings and paintings. She saw those moments as therapeutic and as an escape, her kids saw them as rejection. Ed didn't feel Naomi was nurturing, Whenever he was sick, she thrust a bottle of pills at him. Rather than acknowledge Ted's infidelities, Jenny makes excuses for him. Rather than discuss Naomi's disappearance, Jenny would rather treat Theo and Ed as they though they were kids.
At its core, this book is about the destruction of a family. The family was already falling apart before Naomi's disappearance. Her disappearance was the straw that broke the camel's back. The family could no longer be in denial. So what did happen to Naomi? I'm not exactly sure. The ending felt a little ambiguous and that's what kept me from absolutely loving this book. I want an ending that gives me clarity. Despite my feelings about the ending, this was a solid debut novel by Jane Shemilt and I would read another book by her.
Rating: Give it a try
Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (HarperCollins) in exchange for an honest review. The Daughter is one of the spring picks for She Reads.