Monday, 22 February 2016

She's Not There

Author: Joy Fielding
Genre: Suspense, Mystery
Type: Hardcover
Pages: 368
Source: Publisher
Publisher: Random House Publishing - Ballantyne Books
First Published: February 23, 2016
First Line: "It was barely eight A.M. and the phone was already ringing."

Book Description from GoodReads: A novel of psychological suspense about a woman whose life takes a shocking turn when a young girl contacts her, claiming to be her daughter, kidnapped in Mexico years earlier, from the New York Times bestselling author of Someone is Watching.

A lifetime ago, every year Caroline Shipley looked forward to her wedding anniversary. But then a celebratory trip to Mexico for the occasion with her husband and friends ended in the unsolved kidnapping of her infant daughter, Samantha. Now, fifteen years after that horrific time, divorced and isolated, Caroline is forced to relive the kidnapping by reporters who call every year on the anniversary of Samantha’s disappearance. However, this year when the phone rings, Caroline hears the sweet voice of a girl claiming to be her long-lost daughter. Plunged back into the world of heartbreak, suspicion and questions that led the case to run cold so many years ago, Caroline doesn’t know what or who to believe. But when she starts to figure it out, she finds the answers dangerously close to home.

My Review: This was a great, hard-to-put-down mystery with some surprising twists and a lot of emotion. I read this book in a day.  The writing is solid, the use of two time frames (present and 15 years ago at the time of the abduction) was handled smoothly and the mystery of what happened to Samantha is riveting.  The red herrings were numerous and had me suspecting many of the characters but then slowly changing my mind because someone else started to seem like a better culprit.  But it's the emotional aftermath of the child abduction that kept me reading.

The book focuses on Caroline, the mother of the abducted toddler, and how she deals with the loss.  She was sent into a tailspin after the abduction. She's emotionally bereft and then comes home to find that she's been vilified in the media which greatly affects her life for years to come.  You can't help but feel for this woman who has lost so much but continues to be viewed suspiciously by people in her daily life whose only knowledge of her stems from what they've read/seen in the media.

What struck me about this book is the emotion as the reader is taken inside the personal torment of the family members, especially her mother Caroline and her sister, Michelle.  It's Michelle and Caroline's tumultuous and often volatile relationship that gave the book its emotional depth.  Both of these women continue to hurt over the loss of Samantha and strike out at each other as they try to live through their grief and the effects of losing a family member.  As a mother myself I didn't agree with some of Caroline's choices but I could also kind of understand why her pain made her the way she was.  Many of their exchanges are raw, hurtful and sometimes hard to read due to the emotions behind it all but I always felt like the emotion was realistically portrayed.

Other relationships are brought into the fray including Carole's relationship with her ex-husband and, of course, her tumultuous and strained relationship with her overly domineering mother.  She's a peach (if a little one-dimensional)!  Wow! This is an extended family in turmoil.  Their relationships are broken or, at best, strained and all of their issues stem from that fatal night of the abduction. 

I'm giving this book a 4.5 stars and took off the half of a star because, while the culprit was surprising, I didn't feel that it was overly realistic.  Otherwise, this was a quick and riveting mystery that deals with one of parents' worst nightmares.  I look forward to reading many more from Joy Fielding in the future.

My Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Random House Publishing - Ballantyne Books for providing me with a complimentary hardcover copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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