Review of NOT HER DAUGHTER by Rea Frey


Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.

When a child is kidnapped, everyone wants the child to be found and safely brought home. But no one really stops to question if maybe the child is better off with the kidnapper than with the parents. In NOT HER DAUGHTER by Rea Frey (published August 21st 2018 by St. Martin’s Griffin), the readers will find themselves hoping that the kidnapper is never caught because this child is better off with her kidnapper than her parents.

Sarah Walker’s life is forever changed when she witnesses a five year old girl being verbally abused and bullied by her mother at the airport. It brings back memories of her own unhappy childhood, and her horrible relationship with her mother before her mother took off without a word. Sarah can’t forget the girl – or her desire to somehow help her – and she takes her second meeting with the child as fate. Sarah kidnaps Emma Grace Townsend with the intent to rescue her from her abusive mother and give her a new, happy life. Leaving her life and her business behind, Sarah takes Emma on a cross country journey as they evade the police who are determined to bring the little girl home to her parents.

Yes, what Sarah did is wrong. She kidnapped a child and took her away from her parents. But the parents were negligent and abusive. Emma’s young life was miserable. Sarah might be Emma’s kidnapper, but Sarah is also her savior. The readers will find themselves cheering for Sarah as she eludes the police and provides the little girl with a happy, abusive-free summer.

Amy Townsend was not cut out to be a mother, and she feels like a failure because she has been unable to bond with the little girl. To be honest, Amy feels like she has failed at everything in life. When Emma is kidnapped, Amy does what she can to help the police find her daughter. But, the longer Emma is gone, the more Amy comes to realize that she doesn’t want her daughter back. If Emma never comes back, Amy gets a second chance at life…

NOT HER DAUGHTER is an entrancing, emotional novel. I was pulled into the story and couldn’t put it down because I wanted – no, needed – to know what happened next. Frey splits the novel between Sarah’s first-person narrative and Amy’s third-person narrative, giving the reader both sides of the story and the fall out of the kidnapping. Frey also bounces back and forth in time from Sarah’s and Amy’s childhoods, to their adult lives before and after the kidnapping. The different sections and jumps in time are clearly sectioned off and announced so that it is easy to keep track of the story’s timeline. The sections that flashback to Sarah’s and Amy’s lives before Sarah kidnaps Emma help show the reader the events that shaped the two women and how they became the people that they are now.

There is a lot more to NOT HER DAUGHTER than just the kidnapping. Sarah’s and Amy’s entire lives come in to play, forming different storylines that have nothing to do with Emma or the kidnapping. These secondary storylines provide a break from the main kidnapping plot, and show that other people that doesn’t come to a standstill despite what has happened. Amy still has a husband, a young son, and her daily life to slog through. And Sarah has a business to run, family issues to deal sort through, and people who wonder what happened to her.