Dr Jenny Malcolm believes she has the perfect family but she gets a rude awakening when her fifteen year old daughter, Naomi, goes missing and Jenny has to face up to the fact she didn’t know her child as well as she thought she did. As the police delve further into Naomi’s life, Jenny is horrified by the secrets that are exposed and is helpless as her family begins to crumble around her.
As the days turn into weeks and then months, Jenny’s home life completely changes as she focuses her entire attention on finding her daughter and getting her twin sons through the trauma of losing their sister. But some truths are too hard to bear, and when the various members of her family go their separate ways, Jenny isolates herself in their holiday cottage where she reflects on the days leading up to her daughter’s disappearance and the clues she missed.
The premise behind Daughter seemed interesting enough but I found it a bit too slow-paced to really capture my attention and I found the characters incredibly hard to like which meant I could muster little sympathy for their situation. The main character, Jenny, is a hardworking GP who believes she has found the perfect balance between her work and her family life, thinking her children don’t need her as they learn to lead independent lives. Her husband, Ted, a successful neurosurgeon, spends even less time with his family but Jenny is the one who feels the enormous guilt when she realises they have actually been neglecting their children.
The story is told from Jenny’s point of view from two different timelines; the future which is set a year after Naomi goes missing and is narrated in the present tense, and Jenny’s flashbacks to the days leading up to her daughter’s disappearance and the aftermath. The primary focus of Jenny’s flashbacks is to reveal the incidents leading up to Naomi’s disappearance, however they are coloured by her insights from the discoveries she had made since then.
A year after the disappearance, Jenny has left the family home and has isolated herself in the holiday cottage where she is determined not to get involved in anyone’s else lives. Jenny’s marriage has fallen apart and her two sons have left home so she is left with the pain and guilt she feels for not being there for her children. As Christmas approaches, Jenny prepares to welcome her sons home with their respective partners but old resentments are about to surface and it is clear Jenny has learned nothing as she continues to see what she wants to see.
The mystery surrounding Naomi’s disappearance is revealed at a very slow pace, we are initially led to believe Naomi is the perfect daughter who is just suffering from the typical teenage issues, however the reality is far from the truth. The daughter with whom she had a supposed close relationship had become withdrawn to the extent she no longer really spoke to her parents, let alone discussed her personal problems. Jenny is so wrapped up in her work and in creating the perfect family lifestyle, she has little clue about what her children are really doing in their daily lives.
I found the pace quite frustrating here and the change between the two timelines really only served to add to my irritation. There were certain clues signposted along the way that Jenny failed to see and only had me wondering at her intelligence since many of them were so obvious, however I suppose it just emphasises how blind Jenny is to what’s going on around her.
After a long meandering journey, the pace suddenly picks up in the last few chapters, building up to a final twist at the end which I really did not like as it seemed like a total cop out to me. It’s a bit hard to discuss it without revealing what it is but suffice to say nothing is really resolved and there are more questions than answers.