Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Review: Not Her Daughter

This amazingly well-crafted debut novel is soon-to-be a motion picture.

Not Her Daughter by Rea Frey

My rating:  4.5 Stars

This book called my morals into question. How can you blur the lines between right and wrong?

Why has Sarah Walker taken five-year-old Emma? Was it to protect the little girl? Why would a successful entrepreneur suddenly become a kidnapper? These three questions jumped right out at me as I begin reading Not Your Daughter. It didn't take but a moment for me to realize that Sarah had definitely had a very good motive, but could doing something so very wrong in all actuality be doing something very right?

As someone who works with young children, Sarah is greatly affected when she first sees a after witnessing a disturbing scene at an airport. Her heart is broken, but she figures she will never see the beautiful little girl again. Circumstances shockingly change, however, and she does see Emma again. Wondering if what she saw at the airport was just a fluke, she takes the opportunity to sneak about and watch Emma for a bit. The perfect opportunity arises and she kidnaps Emma. It was without premeditation. However, she quickly realizes that she is either all in or all out when it comes to protecting Emma.

Sarah's own mother was abusive and she feels every bit of Emma's pain. Her compulsion to protect Emma defies all reason. At any cost she will protect this child from her cruel mother. Not Her Daughter is incredibly sensitive and touching. The story is told in multiple points of view, in both the past and present. This gives readers opportunity to understand Amy a bit - although as much as I tried, I had no compassion for her with her daughter missing. Emma's father Richard irritated me to no end. How could he not see all of the abuse, and if he did, why did he never do anything about it. It was the "before" segments that prevented this book from getting five stars. As much as these explored the motives of the characters, I was much more interested in Sarah and Emma's plight.

Sarah is my hero. She truly is. She saw a situation that she gave her power to change, she acted on it. Yes, this could have put her in jail for the rest of her life, but all she could see is the now, and how she had to protect Sarah. While Sarah is trying to always stay one step ahead, her previous relationship with Ethan, which caused her great heartbreak, comes into play again. Sarah makes a great mother -yes, that is how I began to view her - and her relationship with Emma grew so well that it truly touched my heart.

When I picked up this book, I was grabbed from page one, and was that way right through the very end. There was quite a bit of tension, as well as quite a bit of angst while reading about Amy and how she viewed parenthood. Then there were the feelings of aggravation towards Richard, Emma's father and Ethan. Yes, these emotions and more were experienced while reading this book. I cannot believe that such a well-written debut novel was so incredibly good! And, the fact that I read that this will be a major motion picture. Wow! It truly deserves it, and audiences all over will no doubt experience pretty much what I did when they read this remarkably emotional book.

I would especially like to thank St. Martins for sending me this title for review, and this is my honest opinion. 



I grip her hand. Dirt clings to her small palm and makes caked half-moons under her nails. I squeeze her against my side, a shield against the drizzle. Her red bow bobs as we move faster down the road. Even here, I can’t escape the rain.

Don’t stop moving.

My heart pirouettes and shoots a melodic thump to the center of my forehead—usually a precursor to a massive headache—but this, this is all nerves. My legs slice forward uncertainly, both of us moving toward our new destination.

She peers up at me, eyebrows pinched, her left cheek bloated and red. She opens her mouth, closes it. Without thinking, I adjust the umbrella and scoop her up, wrapping her spindly legs around my waist. Her shins dangle around my middle, which makes it difficult to walk.

A few more steps and we will be there. A few more steps and I can figure out what I’m doing, where I’m going, what I’ve just done.

We cross the threshold into the small, sparse, barren lobby. I lower the umbrella and tug her higher on my hip. I walk across the slick marble entryway, my shoes squeaking on the checked floor. My fingers hover over her red bow and her swollen cheek, concealing both in case anyone is bothering to look. I move to the bank of elevators, pressing a scratched, gold button. I tap my foot. I pull the girl higher. Her sour breath sweeps across my neck. With caution, I glance over my shoulder. My stomach roils—a warning.

The doors open. An elderly couple file out before we step in. I hit “4”—the top floor of this boutique hotel—and finally, carefully, ease the girl down.

It is only then that she looks at me—really looks at me—before shuffling back against the shiny, mirrored wall. I resist the urge to tell her to be careful against the glass.

“Where’s my mommy?” She whispers, so that I have to lean in to hear.

“She’s…” I hear the question and consider my answers. Her mother is at home. Her mother is searching. Her mother had her chance. I straighten. “She’s at your house, remember?” I can see the question on Emma’s face—shouldn’t I be with her, then?—but we reach the floor and exit. I fish my key card from my wallet, my eyes on Emma, who has the pace of a child who’s in no rush.

I tap the key to the lock, see the green light, and hear the soft click as I push the heavy door back on its hinges. We slip into darkness. It is humid, the air thick with the stench of cleaning products. I flip on the light and assess the tidy room. She stands a few feet from me, her breath punching the silence.

“Are you okay? Are you hungry?”

She turns. Her red bow quivers on top of her brown hair. She shakes her head no. Her eyes fill with tears. I need to shut this down, but I’m not sure what to say or how to handle this. We are practically strangers.

“Is Mommy looking for me?” She speaks louder than before, with more conviction.

I want to tell her to forget about her mother—that wherever that wretched woman looks, she won’t find us. “I’m not sure, sweetheart.”

I move past her and shove my clothes back into my bag, fighting the urge to run out of here as fast as I can. I probably have an hour, maybe more, before this town is turned upside down.

I walk over to her, unclip the red bow from her hair, and drop it into my bag.

The first piece of evidence.

“We have to go now,” I say. “Will you come with me?”

She nods and swipes the edge of her palm up and across her nostrils, wincing as her fingertips flick against her tender cheek. I already paid for the night—in cash—but we are leaving. The room will sit here, empty, hot, and scrubbed clean by housekeeping.

I grab her hand as we head for the door again. Emma walks a few steps behind and kicks at the carpet, dragging the fingers of her left hand across the floral wallpaper, as though she is combing through water. I press the elevator button and scan the hallway. A few doors open and close, but no one joins us. The elevator opens. Empty. A sign? A small gift? I call to her—easy now—and she steps on again.

“Do you want to push the button?” I motion to the “1,” but she shakes her head and shies away from me. I stab the button and wait for the doors to close. We lower, floor by floor, one step closer to freedom.

I drown the panic, tamp it down as best as I can. I don’t know what I’m doing or what I’ve done, but I have to keep moving. I have to get home. And I have to take Emma—sweet, unsuspecting Emma—with me. She is my responsibility now, and I will do everything I can to protect her. I am rewriting her story, altering her memories, shifting her shitty childhood into clean chunks: before, during, after. Then, now, someday.

I take a quaking breath and wait. The elevator bumps to the first floor. A beat. The doors slide open. We step through.

We move on.

Copyright © 2018 by Rea Frey


Rea always wanted to be a novelist.

When she was little, her nose was either stuffed in a book, sniffing paper, absorbing words, or letting her imagination wander. If not reading, she was writing. In journals. In notebooks. In diaries. On walls. In the sand. On legal pads. On typewriters. With quills.

In college, she majored in fiction writing and somehow fell into nonfiction and personal training. Her dreams of sitting in a writer’s haven on the water, wrapped in a sweater, penning her stories, was swapped for health and wellness gigs and her first fractured steps into the important world of the Author Platform (aka social media).

After four nonfiction books were published, countless magazine and newspaper articles written, editing jobs taken, content management contracts executed, a gym co-owned, and certifications sought, she realized she was hustling for the wrong type of writing.
So, she quit.

She gave herself a window to write a novel. Eight weeks, she told herself. Eight weeks to change everything.

Never one to back down from a challenge, she wrote her novel in just a month.

The rest went something like this: Secure a phenomenal agent, join a writer’s group, bear witness to the magic of self-belief as the book got into a bidding war and landed her a two-book deal with St. Martin’s Press.

Now, when asked what she does, she says the following: I’m a motherfucking writer.  

Rea is a novelist. She writes books. And swears. And drinks lots of coffee. And has a daughter. And a dreamy husband. And still manages to find the magic in books.

She hopes you will put down the phone and pick up a book (preferably hers when it hits the shelves). And find the joy in reading. 

Because there’s nothing quite like the power of words...

Find Rea on her website at: www.reafrey.com.

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