Not Her Daughter: A Novel

Not Her Daughter: A Novel

by Rea Frey

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Overview

Not Her Daughter: A Novel by Rea Frey

SOON TO BE A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE

PopSugar – The Summer’s Hottest Books * Refinery 29 - Best Summer Thrillers * Parade - 20 Chilling Thrillers by Women to Read This Year * Brit + Co - 15 New Thrillers by Women That Will Give You Chills This Summer * The Zoe Report – 20 Books to Read this Summer * She Reads - New Summer Thrillers to Get Your Heart Racing * Working Mother - 15 Hot New Summer Beach Reads * Culturalist - Top Ten Domestic Thrillers That Will Make You Question Everything

"Brings to mind Jodi Picoult...thought-provoking domestic drama." - Booklist

“Will make you miss your bedtime, guaranteed.” – Bestselling author Kimberly Belle

Gripping, emotional, and wire-taut, Not Her Daughter raises the question of what it means to be a mother—and how far someone will go to keep a child safe.

Emma Townsend. Five years old. Gray eyes, brown hair. Missing since June.

Emma is lonely. Living with her cruel mother and clueless father, Emma retreats into her own world of quiet and solitude.

Sarah Walker. Successful entrepreneur. Broken-hearted. Kidnapper.

Sarah has never seen a girl so precious as the gray-eyed child in a crowded airport terminal. When a second-chance encounter with Emma presents itself, Sarah takes her—far away from home. But if it’s to rescue a little girl from her damaging mother, is kidnapping wrong?

Amy Townsend. Unhappy wife. Unfit mother. Unsure whether she wants her daughter back.

Amy’s life is a string of disappointments, but her biggest issue is her inability to connect with her daughter. And now Emma is gone without a trace.

As Sarah and Emma avoid the nationwide hunt, they form an unshakeable bond. But what about Emma’s real mother, back at home?

Praise for Not Her Daughter

“The plot twists here are brave, the themes are both poignant and unsettling, and the resolution is deeply resonant. A page-turner with heart!" - New York Times bestselling author Kate Moretti

"A cleverly constructed novel that will have you questioning everything you believe about right or wrong." - New York Times bestselling author Chevy Stevens

"Engrossing and suspenseful, Frey writes her characters with depth and compassion, challenging readers to question their own code of ethics.” - Zoje Stage, author of Baby Teeth

“An emotional ride where the line between right and wrong begins to fade…pulls you in from the very first page, and unlike most in its genre, you won't know how you want it to end until it does.Wendy Walker, author of Emma in the Night

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250166425
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 08/21/2018
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 74,194
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Rea Frey is an award-winning author of several nonfiction books. She lives in Nashville with her husband and daughter. Not Her Daughter is her debut novel.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

sarah

during

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.

before

I opened my eyes.

It was a full minute before I registered Ethan was not beside me, his arms scooped under my ribs, as if preparing to roll me onto the floor. He never had morning breath — a lucky trait that left him brazen with a.m. kisses. Every morning, I would self-consciously extricate myself from his tangle of limbs to brush my teeth and slap on deodorant.

I had to get out of this condo before the daily reminders started: the lack of coffee, the stillness of the bedroom, the quiet, solo dressing, the crisp sheets on the right side of the bed. He was in our favorite café. He was on the muddy, green trails. He was on the TriMet, the MAX Light Rail, waiting outside the NW patisserie with a scone and a smile. The memory of him was everywhere.

People broke up every day. People lost people. People went through actual tragedies beyond the sad girl-meets-boy-boy-breaks-girl's-heart tale. I had to get on with it already.

Despite the millions of things I missed about him, what I missed the most, at the moment, was his coffee. He'd bought me a Chemex for my birthday, and despite never drinking coffee himself, he'd researched, bloomed, and whittled the brewing time to a swift science.

"Would you look at this?"

I'd scoot beside him, our elbows bumping, as I inhaled the rich dark chocolate and woodsy smells of whatever local brew he'd bought. "What?"

"There are like three bubbles in this. This coffee is shit." He'd palm the bag, poring over every detail, as if he'd missed something the $17.99 price tag had disguised. When he got a good bag and the bubbles exploded like soapsuds, he'd slap the countertop as if he'd won some sort of coffee competition. I loved this about him, loved that he had a personal investment in perfecting something that mattered to me, not him. I felt so lucky then, wrapped firmly in what I believed to be It. The One. Forever. There wasn't a world in which we didn't exist together.

Now that there was, I didn't know if I wanted to be a part of it.

* * *

I pulled up to the loft at 9:00 A.M. and rode the elevator to the seventh floor, running my eyes over the company logo: TACK, Teach. Activate. Create. Know. Ethan had carved the sign from walnut and helped bolt it to the wall almost three years ago.

"Morning, boss lady." Madison greeted me at the front desk.

"Morning. Busy yet?"

"Oh, you know." She walked around the desk to take my things. "Always. Do you want coffee first?"

I nodded, entered my office, and walked straight to the windows — my favorite feature — and pressed my fingers against the cool glass. It was raining, something I hardly ever noticed anymore, mostly because it was always raining.

When I moved to Portland, I used to think it was just something people said — it rains all the time! — but it did rain as much as they said. Misty, ropy rain that saturated your hair and clothes just enough to be annoying. My hair was perpetually in a state of frizz, which meant I kept it knotted high on my head, in a bun, rammed with endless bobby pins. Ethan used to find the pins everywhere: in the couch cushions, on the floor, in the sheets. He'd open them up and create little uses for them, like scraping earwax from his ear — much to my horror — and pitting a whole bowlful of cherries, thanks to a video he saw on YouTube.

I fingered my skeleton-key necklace and flicked the metal around and around, thinking of all I had on the docket over the next few weeks. I was rolling out to Ethiopia and Senegal — two places I hadn't yet been for TACK. We had new products to implement in each country, and who better than the CEO to bring the children their educational kits?

TACK had started small, like most things: digital activity books personalized to children's interests. Kids or parents filled out questionnaires of their ages, favorite toys, subjects, and activities, and I crafted personalized stories to help them learn. Their parents would send photos of their children's beloved toys, pets, and a headshot, so they could become the stars in their own adventures. The activity books had gone viral in a matter of months; I'd been urged to make actual kits, though I wanted to stay in the digital space to keep costs down. Eventually, I'd tinkered with the idea of personalized kits specified to cultural interests, instead of age group. It had caught on so strongly internationally that I had three buyers desperate to purchase my business. They called once a week with offers that made my mind twitch with the possibility of complete financial freedom, but I wasn't there yet. I was still obsessed with my business and wanted to stay focused on both global and domestic growth.

Madison interrupted my train of thought with a giant mug of coffee. "Got the last of Travis's homemade almond milk."

"Perfect. Thank you." I gripped the hot mug and took a long sip.

Madison brought up her iPad and divulged all the recent orders, my travel itinerary, and what products had a few issues we were tweaking. "Brad and team have already started working out the kinks, so don't panic. Seriously. They're handling it." Madison gnawed at her bottom lip. She knew me well; if there were issues, I liked to take care of them myself. I'd been called a control freak, even panic-prone when problems flared, but I was learning to delegate.

"Fine." I gave her a reassuring smile. "I trust them. Next on the agenda?" I straightened in my chair and spun around to face the floor-to-ceiling windows. The wheels squealed in protest, and I flinched. The drizzle had already ceased and a slice of sun was threatening to spill through the clouds.

"That's really all in terms of the next forty-eight hours or so." Madison pulled a can of WD-40 out of my bottom desk drawer and sprayed the wheels. She wiped her hands and glanced at her watch, a nervous tic, because I was so obsessed with being punctual. "You have a meeting with Travis at eleven, which gives you almost two hours." Her Prada heels clacked toward the door. "Open or closed?"

"Closed, please."

The next two hours evaporated over a sea of unanswered emails and preparations for my trip. On my third coffee refill, I took a break and pulled up a new browser. I had removed Facebook from my phone, but it still taunted me on my computer. What was he doing? Was he seeing someone? What new pieces was he selling in the shop? The not knowing ran its sharp fingernail underneath my skin.

"Don't do it, Walker. Don't." My stomach clenched. Who was I kidding? Every time I went online, I thought of him first. Every scroll through my news feed, I hoped to see him. Every time my phone dinged, I secretly prayed he was texting, calling, or sending me an email.

I perused my own page first and then my friends' news feeds, noticing one of the latest quizzes: "What Celebrity Do You Look Most Like?" I clicked it, let Facebook pull my personal photos and details, and then, voilà! There it was: Congratulations! You are a classic, timeless beauty. Your celebrity lookalike is Anne Hathaway! I scrutinized the photo of Anne and the one of me. There was a strong resemblance. We were both tall, pale with dark hair, and had large doe eyes. Ethan used to tell me I had bedroom eyes. That I looked the most beautiful just in from a run or when I had scrubbed my face free of makeup. Anne and I also had the same pouty, full lips. But where she was thin, I was athletic, more of a runner's body to her natural willowy frame. I closed the window, opting not to post it for all my digital audience to see.

I'd eaten up Ethan's compliments, hanging my entire life on them. What did that say about me, even now, crunching numbers, pushing objects into factories to be made for children, when I knew so little about my own life without a man in it? Ethan had filled a void for me, obviously, and so did my career. Now, it was as though all my hopes of a normal life — marriage, babies, a traditional home, family vacations — had been extinguished.

"Sarah?" Madison stuffed her head into the sliver of space from the cracked door. "Travis is ready."

"Be right there." I hovered over the small x to close the window. I wished he'd blocked me the moment we broke up, but Ethan wasn't that type of guy. He also wouldn't want to flaunt anything in my face if he were in a new relationship, but it wouldn't even dawn on him that I would be looking at his page. I'd gotten better — checking just once a week at most — but still. We were approaching the six-month mark post-breakup without even a casual runin at any of our favorite places.

I took a breath and typed in Ethan's name. A photo of him popped up on his timeline — posted three days ago — his face pink from sun, his smile genuine, his arms wrapped around the shoulders of a woman.

I leaned closer, ripping her features apart. The way her bottom lip sagged slightly to the left. The curve of her petite nostrils. Her insanely arched eyebrows, which looked overly plucked. Her beautiful blond hair, piled in a topknot that caught the light of the sun. Her smile, and his, which revealed a relationship I didn't want to know about.

I closed my laptop and brought it to my meeting with Travis, slipping back into work mode. I finished the rest of the day in a blaze of tasks, meetings, and preparations, as though not thinking of Ethan would somehow ease the knot in my stomach and bring him back to me.

* * *

When I looked up again, it was dark. I blinked from my computer haze, stared at the twinkling lights, and soaked in the city sounds that gathered outside the glass in a blast of horns, sirens, and the occasional screech of tires on wet pavement. I gathered my things and locked up, taking the elevator back to the ground floor.

I knew why I couldn't shake the thought of Ethan today — it was our anniversary. It pained me to think what we might have planned; how we would spend the night trying to outdo each other with gestures and gifts. Even when we weren't celebrating, Ethan and I would meet near his furniture shop after work, pick a brewery at random, and talk about our successes and failures for the day. Sometimes, we'd slip into Powell's, making out in random book stalls, before picking one book to purchase for each other. No matter how long we'd been together, it was still a thrill to see him after a long day at the office. It felt like dating. It always felt like dating. Now, the city gave me comfort as I walked toward home and smiled at the people just beginning their night.

In my condo, after I changed into pajamas, ordered takeout, and drank too many glasses of wine, my cell rang.

"Hi, Dad. Right on time."

"Am I that predictable?"

"Yes. You're like the news. Except less depressing."

He chuckled, which reminded me of sandpaper against gritty wood. All the years of crying had left his voice weaker than it should have been.

"So, what's up?"

"Just want to see what my favorite daughter is doing."

"That joke never gets old." I stretched and stifled a yawn. "Just traveling the world, working myself toward an early retirement. You?"

"Oh, you know ..." A shuffle of papers filled the silence, perhaps the collection of bills he kept neatly stacked by the telephone, or the daily newspaper, folded into thirds. "Busy too."

We both knew that busy meant spending nights on the couch or occasionally taking a walk around his neighborhood. My father no longer worked long hours, or very much. His zest for sales had waned with his zest for life. He lived the simplest way one could, his mortgage wiped clean from a Christmas present after my second year in business. The only real expenses in his life were utilities, the upkeep for his beloved Mustang, and whiskey. I checked the time, knowing he was probably a third of a handle in.

"I want to come see you soon, okay? I've just got a big trip coming up, but then I can come visit for a few days. How does that sound? Or you can always come here ..." It was the same suggestion I made every time he called. Come to Portland. Get out of your comfort zone.

"I can't get away anytime soon, but I'd love it if you could make it here." His tone shifted. "I thought since you and Ethan broke up, you'd visit a bit more."

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Not Her Daughter"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Rea Frey.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
Dedication,
Acknowledgments,
Epigraph,
Sarah,
During,
Before,
During,
Before,
During,
Before,
During,
Before,
During,
Amy,
During,
Before,
After,
Before,
After,
Sarah,
After,
Amy,
During,
After,
Sarah,
After,
Before,
After,
After,
After,
Before,
After,
After,
After,
Amy,
After,
Before,
Sarah,
After,
Amy,
After,
Before,
After,
Sarah,
After,
Now,
Now,
Amy,
Now,
Sarah,
Now,
Amy,
Now,
Emma,
Epilogue,
Discussion Questions,
Teaser,
About the Author,
Copyright,

Customer Reviews

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Not Her Daughter: A Novel 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 32 reviews.
LlamaJen 4 days ago
I really enjoyed the story and the alternating between Sarah and Amy. I wasn't a fan of Amy or Sarah. Amy was a horrid mother and admitted to not liking her daughter and Sarah is a kidnapper. My problem with Sarah is she justifies her kidnapping, but it's still kidnapping. I loved the writing style and was completely hooked from the first chapter. Sarah witnesses an incident at an airport involving a five year old girl, Emma Grace, and her mother. Sarah immediately identifies with the little girl. On a random visit to a Montessori School, Sarah crosses paths with Emma once again. She pretty much stalks the family, by constantly riding her bike by their house. While hiding in the woods behind Emma's house, Sarah witnesses Emma being slapped. She makes her move and the girl goes willingly with her. Sarah believes she is doing the right thing. I had mixed emotions about this book. I found this book really scary. No one saw Sarah take Emma and the worst part was that Emma went with her. There was no Stanger Danger. I knew there was no going back for Sarah when she brought out the scissors and hair dye. You can't just kidnap a child because you think they have a horrible life. What kind of life is Sarah giving Emma? It's one built on lies, they are constantly looking over their shoulders and moving all the time. I have so many questions!! How Sarah is able to pull this off and how can Emma go to school without the proper paper work? Ethan knows who has the child, so why doesn't he go to the police? What really happened with Ethan? If Sarah was really happy with him and loved him what was the problem? For as smart as Sarah was she just didn't make good decisions. She meets a man at a park, goes to dinner with him and then spends several days with him. Who does that? Doesn't she watch the ID Channel? That's how people get locked down in basements, but I guess it doesn't matter since she is already a kidnapper and crossed many state lines. It seemed so random that Sarah's mom happens to call her. It's been twenty-five years since she has seen her. Then there's Emma's parents. Did I like them- NO, but I did feel sorry that their daughter was stolen from them. Emma showed no emotion for her mom or dad. She never missed them or cried for them. It seemed so unusually for a child. I definitely recommend the book. Loved the story and writing style and can't wait to read more by the author. Thanks to NetGalley, St. Martin's Press and the author, Rea Frey, for a free electronic ARC of this novel.
CCinME 6 days ago
Good solid telling of a child abduction and the fallout from multiple viewpoints. It wraps up neatly at the end and moved along at a nice pace. Really enjoyed this writer and the story!
Debi_2014andBeyond 10 days ago
Through my association as a book blogger with various publishers and book reviewing sites, I often have the opportunity to learn about books by authors that I've never heard about before and might have missed the opportunity to otherwise read their books. Today's post is exactly one of those books by one of those authors - Rea Frey's new book, Not Her Daughter, which was just released by St. Martin's Press yesterday, August 21, 2018. The book had me from the back cover. I drank in this story right from the beginning. I was captured throughout - sneaking pages in the car, in the line waiting to make my purchase, and once, I'll admit, even at a red light. I couldn't help myself either. I felt like I was living right next door to some of the characters in this story.  I was completely invested from the get go, and nervous to find out how things would ultimately turn out.  That's how real the story reads, folks. The story goes in between Amy and Sarah and alternates between before, during and after.  I felt like it was so crazy to be hopeful that the kidnapper would prevail instead of the grieving parents, but I just couldn't help myself.  Sarah could very easily be one of my friends whereas Amy would be someone I would steer away from. I wanted little Emma to live a happy life and that meant she and Sarah needed to get away and live "happily ever after". This book raised so many questions that I felt it would really make a perfect book club book for sure. To define the story in one word, I guess I'd use the word "gripping".  This was a gripping read. I’ve read so many books involving missing children and this one was very different and unique. Ms. Frey really knows how to spin a fabulous story! The story and the characters were well written and it was a quick and easy read to follow. I can't even believe this is a debut novel, and I really hope to read many more of Ms. Frey's stories in the future! I received an advanced readers copy of this book from St. Martin's Press in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to provide a positive review but couldn't help myself but to do so because this was an amazing book!
Anonymous 15 days ago
I loved it
BettyTaylor 20 days ago
This book was amazing - exciting! I did not expect the ending – but it totally worked! Sarah Walker first observes the interactions between Amy Townsend and her five-year-old daughter Emma in an airport. Amy is scolding and pushing Emma while arguing with her husband. Unable to get Emma out of her mind, Sarah sees her again a few months later. This time when Amy physically lashes out at Emma Sarah snaps. Having herself grown up in a home where her mother was first verbally and emotionally abusive to Sarah and then walked out of the home, Sarah is shaken to her core to see this happening to Emma. So – Sarah takes Emma – just to keep her safe. Can this be so wrong? Now Sarah is on the run. She has to do this. She can’t let Emma be returned to her mother. Amy Townsend – nagging wife. How did life go so wrong? Why can she never catch a break? Unfit mother? Her small son never seems to push her buttons like Emma does. Now Emma is missing. How did she let this happen? Does she want a second chance with Emma? Would life be better without Emma? Did I want her to have a second chance? Two women – one child. Which woman is a “real mother”? What does it take to be a “god” mother? Such a beautifully written story – and so difficult to put down. How dare life get in the way when I have such a phenomenal book to read! The characters are believable. The situation is impossible – or is it? We know the law, but is the law always right? Quite the moral dilemma. We definitely dive into that gray area here. Emotionally wrenching! Suspenseful! I loved it!! Perfect book club read! Thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for the review copy. This review is solely my opinion.
Anonymous 20 days ago
How far would you go to protect an abused child? What an incredible book. Five ????? gigantical stars (yes, that's a word ?) Was she kidnapped or was she rescued? Not my Daughter is the debut novel by Rea Frey and is told in first person in alternating chapters between the mother and the kidnapper, moving between the past and the present seamlessly. Both characters are so relatable...yes, even the abusive mother. An emotionally charged story that had me turning the pages at a frantic rate. Easily one of the best books I've read this year. I was provided an ARC of this book by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous 22 days ago
This book alternated viewpoints between Sarah (Emma's kidnapper) and Amy (Emma's mother) before, during, and after Emma's kidnapping. While I definitely enjoyed reading this book, I found it hard to relate to the main characters. Sarah had a hard childhood and because of that thinks the only logical thing to do when she sees a mother yelling/slapping her daughter is to take the child and give her a new life. Amy is stuck in her overwhelmingly mediocre life and is mad at everything and everyone and takes it out on Emma. Will Sarah get caught by authorities? Return Emma on her own? Turn her over to CPS? The book is certainly an entertaining page turner but some parts of the story and especially the ending were predictable, bewildering, and slightly unbelievable. Thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for a review.
ChristineAE2 25 days ago
FANTASTIC READ! I am giving this one the full five stars, I loved Not Her Daughter. This is not your run of the mill kidnapping story-line- you are going to be cheering Sarah Walker the “kidnapper” on! Take Emma Grace Townsend and keep her FOREVER, leave the state, leave the country and GOOOOOOO girl! I think I may have enjoyed this book even more since I have worked hand in hand with social services for over 10 years and have found myself in a similar position as Sarah wanting to rescue a child. I have seen the system fail many times as well as succeed and do just what it is intended to do. “The system is broken. There are good people who work for these children and do the best they can, but the system is just too big for them to make a difference. It’s a horrible process for the child, and it’s almost impossible to prove neglect from parents by a total stranger. At best, she’d get placed in social services.” The only part I don’t agree with is that I know that these people, myself, my coworkers DO make a difference, we may not be able to fix everything or everyone BUT for the ones we can help, we DO make a difference. Sarah Walker is catching a flight when she sees a beautiful little girl in a red dress, red bow, and red shoes. “She looked like Christmas.” Sarah watched this little girl be tugged and pulled on and yelled at by her mother and hoped that this was not how this gorgeous child was always treated and this was a bad day, a stressful day. I mean, flying is a stressful experience for most of us. “I couldn’t forget Emma. I couldn’t forget.” Just when Sarah is starting to put the little girl out of her mind, Sarah has a chance meeting with this same stunning little five year old girl with gray eyes. This cannot be a coincidence for these two to cross paths again. “I must get Emma to come with me somewhere else, to a place that is not her home, with a person who is not her mother.” “I am rewriting her story, altering her memories, shifting her shitty childhood into clean chunks: before during, after. Then now, someday." The story is told from the perspectives of Sarah Walker (kidnapper) and Amy Townsend, Emma’s mother alternating between before, during, and after Emma is taken. I was on the edge of my patio chair, heart racing wondering what was going to happen next. Rea Frey’s writing style is very engaging and captured my attention immediately. The characters were multidimensional and seemed real; I had feelings for each one. I could easily picture scenes playing out in my head…Not Her Daughter would make an excellent movie in my opinion. I cannot wait to see what Rea Frey comes out with next as this book was superb! ***Thank you St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Ejaygirl 26 days ago
Sarah Walker is a successful business owner, still recovering from a failed relationship, but seemingly healthy in all respects. While on a business trip, she witnesses a disturbing scene between a mother and her young daughter at an airport. It’s clear the mother is frazzled but not enough to excuse her treatment of the little girl in the red dress, hair bow and shoes. Not long after, Sarah discovers the little girl again during a trip to a Montessori school to pitch business and follows her home, just to make certain her life is better than what she first witnessed. Unfortunately, it’s not and Sarah and 5-year old Emma both make a decision that permanently alters their lives and that of many others. I began this story knowing that Sarah takes Emma but couldn’t believe there would be any circumstances where I would condone her actions. Incredibly, I found myself rooting for Sarah and Emma but also felt compassion for Amy, Emma’s mother, despite her horrible parenting. There are a host of issues presented in this story, none of them explored in any real depth but enough to stimulate thought provoking inquiry. You see society passing harsher judgment on the mothers in this story while the enabling fathers seem to get a pass. The story provides quite a bit of background on both Sarah and Amy, providing some insights and contrasts into and between the two women. This was a Traveling Friends group book selection that generated a robust discussion, raising some provocative points of view I hadn’t considered. One dealt with how tough women are on other women as parents, maybe reflecting their own insecurities. While the ending left a lot of dangling resolutions, I enjoyed the book for challenging paradigms about parenting, child abductions and female/male stereotypes. It doesn’t provide a lot of answers but it made me think and left me to my imagination about the story’s outcome. (I received an advance copy from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review)
DiiMI 29 days ago
She was there one minute, annoying and needy, the next she was gone. Emma was a child of abuse, living with loneliness, she had nowhere safe to land. Sarah Walker had a chance encounter with Emma and her abusive mother and she never forgot that day. Was it because of her own abandonment issues? The successful business owner would cross paths with five-year-old Emma again, and Sarah would decide to become her savior. Now Sarah is a kidnapper and the country is looking for little Emma. Emma’s mother, Amy, took all of her dissatisfaction with her life out on Emma, but now the world was giving Amy attention, they felt sorry for her, they thought they knew her pain, but did she really hurt? As Sarah and Emma travel the country avoiding capture, Emma will finally learn what it is to be loved and wanted, and Sarah is determined to give Emma all of the motherly protection they both missed out on, but will Sarah’s guilt finally allow the little girl to go home? Will she ask her to choose between Amy and Sarah? How can small child choose between the reality of her life and the fantasy Sarah is creating for both of them? Set aside the moral dilemmas, the unhealthy state of Sarah’s mind, her desperation to be loved, to live that love vicariously through Emma and get ready to be drawn into a story that is as sharp as tacks and just as painful. NOT HER DAUGHTER by Rea Frey is an excellent piece of writing and creativity on the part of the author, but it is chilling. I struggled throughout the first part of the book, waiting for Sarah to devolve into something completely out of touch with reality. I wanted Amy arrested for the abuse she rained down on Emma, both physically and worse, emotionally. Additionally, all those who knew about it, were just as guilty. I was never comfortable with this read, yes, it is powerful, but I just couldn’t reconcile myself with the events, or the outcome. I tend to think beyond the last page of a book to the future and I wonder if either of these women would ever know what it really means to be a mother?
whatsbetterthanbooks 29 days ago
Riveting, affecting, and unique! Not Her Daughter is a thought-provoking, clever, tight thriller that highlights just how fine the line between criminal intent and morally acceptable behaviour can be when it comes to the protection of children. The writing is taut and emotive. The characters are complex, troubled, and authentic. And the plot told from dual points of view and alternating timelines, before-and-after the kidnapping, builds subtly to create tension and suspense as it unravels piece-by-piece all the motivations, actions, personalities, and relationships within it. Not Her Daughter at its core is a novel about family, relationships, secrets, parental abuse, abduction, and the lengths one will go to protect, care, and love a child. It’s expressive, absorbing, unnerving, and without a doubt an exceptional debut for Frey.
LGandhi 3 months ago
5 Hold On To The Seat of Your Pants, Just Wow Stars!!!!!!!!! I am so mixed on how to write this review. Not because of bad writing or a stale storyline. On the contrary, both were incredible. I don't know if I've ever read a book where I actually was rooting for the bad guy. And in this case, the "bad guy"'is a kidnapper, which as a parent is my absolute worst nightmare. Have you ever been out in public and witnessed a parent disciplining or responding to their child in a manner you felt was inappropriate, even bordered on abuse? How would you handle that situation, do you get involved on behalf of the child or do you turn away? This is the predicament Sarah finds herself in. And the decision she makes will grab hold of you and not let you go until the last page, it will take your breathe away, it will scare you and maybe even have you cheering "Go Girl!" at times. This book is going to make you think. What is really the "right" thing to do - in the eyes of the law, in the life of a child, in hopes of humanity, in terms of what someone deserves? Was Emma kidnapped or was she rescued? Did Sarah have the right to do what she did? Was she helping or making an already bad situation worse? Is it possible for Emma to have a happy ending? Do parents get a second chance to right a wrong they have made? I stayed up till the odd hours of the morning because I had to finish this book, I had to know how it ended, I had to know what was going to happen. And then I couldn't go to sleep just thinking about that ending!!!!! I'm not going to share any spoilers in my review, I will say I don't think that ending was what I thought was going to happen. I was......shocked!!! Reading a book, especially a new author that's a great outcome. I will definitely be looking for her next book. But also shocked in a way that I don't know how I feel about the ending, I'm conflicted, again not giving away any spoilers, I stayed up musing whether this was a good thing or a bad thing the way it ended. And as a parent, how could that happen.... Also all good outcomes for a book - you want the book to resonate with your readers. You want your book to be memorable and one they will recommend others to read, not just the day after they read it, but months after they read it. This book does that and more. I will be talking about this book for awhile. I will highly recommend this book to others to read. And you don't need to be a parent to be able to relate to this book. Just a side note, after reading about Emma's story (and I know this isn't a true story, but it felt like it could be....), I hugged my son a little tighter, I praised him more than I already do and made sure he knows how much I love him and how proud of him I am. Because every child deserves to be brought up in a loving and encouraging environment. (Probably not the side note you were expecting, huh?) Pick up this book to read. It's not your ordinary suspenseful cookie cutter kidnapping story. You will be pleasantly surprised with this storyline. My thanks to Netgalley, Rea Frey and St. Martin's Griffin publishing for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
deb-oh 3 months ago
Not Her Daughter Rea Fray I received this copy from NetGalley for an honest Review: Motherhood...do any of us think we're doing it right? What about a woman who really doesn't 'like' her 5 year old daughter? Who has a hard time keeping her temper, who really is unsatisfied with her life? I really wanted to relate to Amy, the 'real' mom, but I have to tell you, I just didn't like her...she was selfish, mean, short-tempered, and whiny...everything a Mom can't afford to be (that being said, I did find myself feeling for her, she honestly knew her short-comings). When her daughter goes missing, actually kidnapped by a woman who has seen how she is treated and just wants her to have a better life, well you start to root for the kidnapper; it's a weird feeling to be rooting for the 'bad' guy for all intents and purposes, but you do! I found this story to be a bit far-fetched yet it kept me glued to the pages to see how it all worked out. Very readable story. #NetGalley #Not Her Daughter
deb-oh 3 months ago
Not Her Daughter Rea Fray I received this copy from NetGalley for an honest Review: Motherhood...do any of us think we're doing it right? What about a woman who really doesn't 'like' her 5 year old daughter? Who has a hard time keeping her temper, who really is unsatisfied with her life? I really wanted to relate to Amy, the 'real' mom, but I have to tell you, I just didn't like her...she was selfish, mean, short-tempered, and whiny...everything a Mom can't afford to be (that being said, I did find myself feeling for her, she honestly knew her short-comings). When her daughter goes missing, actually kidnapped by a woman who has seen how she is treated and just wants her to have a better life, well you start to root for the kidnapper; it's a weird feeling to be rooting for the 'bad' guy for all intents and purposes, but you do! I found this story to be a bit far-fetched yet it kept me glued to the pages to see how it all worked out. Very readable story. #NetGalley #Not Her Daughter
RobinLovesReading 3 months ago
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.
Alfoster 3 months ago
Could you ever side with a kidnapper? What if the kidnapper was simply rescuing a child from harm or neglect? And what if the kidnapper's own past somehow contributed to deep feelings of abandonment? These are just a few of the questions that come to light in this lovely and insightful novel. When Sarah first sees Emma and her parents at the airport and watches Amy slapping her for not keeping up, she is horrified at the potential abuse. Later, coincidentally, she sees Emma again and is galvanized by the idea she must help this little girl who is clearly in need of mothering. And so she does. But what about the consequences? Sarah has her own demons; her mother ran out on her family, her recent relationship ended badly, and she is now drawn to five-year-old Emma. How far can she run and keep secrets hidden? Poignant and compelling, this novel will draw you in and keep you in its grips until the very end--perhaps a one-sitting read! Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!
sbart84 3 months ago
An amazing book that I could not put down. The book revolves around two woman. The kidnapper and the mother. Sarah, the kidnapper only wants what is best for Emma. So Sarah kidnaps Emma, to show her a better life that what she had. Amy, the mother has been abusive to Emma and has never really been able to connect with her daughter. So, who really is the real mother to Emma? This is a gripping emotional story that I could not put down. I only wanted what was best for Emma but is kidnapping the way to go to get her out of the damaging environment. Both women are damaged in their lives with different coping means. This is page turner that I could not put down. Looking forward to watching the movie. I highly recommend!!
Jolie 3 months ago
Not Her Daughter is one of those books that you need to read with tissues. It is also a thought-provoking book. It makes you think how far would you go to help an abused child. And how far is too far? What this book also showed is how people turn a blind eye to problems that aren’t their own. At any point, the school/neighbors/babysitter could have stepped up for Emma. But they didn’t. No one wanted to rock the boat. No one wanted to take that extra step to help Emma until Sarah arrived. I know this is going sound weird, but I kind of felt for Amy right after Sarah took Emma. My sympathy was taken away as the story went on. She became unlikable. She only thought about herself. Not about Emma. Not about her husband or son. Just about herself. I came to the conclusion at the end of the book that she was some sort of sociopath. She deserved everything that happened to her after Emma was taken. On the same note, I couldn’t believe how clueless Emma’s father was. How could you not notice your wife mistreating your child? How could you not see the bruises or even the fact that your child was malnourished? I know most people would feel bad for him, but I didn’t. He lived with his head in the sand. He did end up doing the right thing in the end by leaving Amy but still. Too little, too late. Sarah was such a great character to read. She was conflicted and man, did she have her demons. I thought seeing Sarah so torn on taking Emma was great. She wasn’t a bad person but she did something that was horrible. Even if it was to protect a child. Her demons did show up during the book. Between the ex that she shouldn’t have let get away to her very childhood, she was forced to face them. I like how it was done during the book. I also liked how Sarah learned and grew from facing them. Emma was the only one that I felt completely bad for. Her mother hated her. Why? Because she was prettier than Amy. Yes, you read that right. So, she ended up getting the short end of the stick. She was neglected, beaten and not fed right. Then Sarah comes along and takes her. Don’t get me wrong, it was for the better. Emma thrived with Sarah. But still. Even at the end of the book, Emma was treated like some sort of hot commodity. Emma did get a chance to make her choice and I was pretty happy with what she chose. The child abuse angle was very well written. The author did a great job of giving enough detail so you knew what was going on. But she didn’t give too much. I have read books that give too much detail. Which is fine. But in this case, it wasn’t needed. The kidnapping angle held enough oomph to keep my attention. Sarah’s run from the law while trying to heal a wounded child and deal with her own issues. The author did a great job at not dropping the ball with that. The urgency was there and it did not let up. I did think that Sarah going to her ex’s cabin was a bit of a fail but I could see why she did it. I do not like more than 2 POV’s. I get thrown off the storyline. But in this book, it works. I got to see what was going on in all 3 people’s minds as this drama unfolded. It fascinated me and kept me reading. The end of the book was anticlimactic for me. I don’t know what I was expecting but it wasn’t that. I felt let down. After everything that happened in the book, I expected more out of the ending. I loved the epilogue. Thought it was one of the best ones I have read to date.
Regina-Reads 3 months ago
This novel delves headfirst into an impossibly complicated scenario and explores the murky waters of mother-daughter relationships, bad childhoods, bad marriages, and bad mothers. I couldn't put this book down. It's been optioned for film! Wow. If you start this book with looming deadlines or close to bedtime, be prepared to disregard both once you start reading Rea Frey’s immensely absorbing novel, Not Her Daughter. This is, hands down, one of the most compelling books I’ve read so far this year. It is a fast-paced story that alternates between two female narrators, leading up to and during the kidnapping of a five-year-old girl. This book immerses the reader into the minds of two very different women. One, a successful and recently single business woman with an unhappy past, and the other a self-loathing, frazzled mother of two in an unhappy marriage. Both women’s lives intersect when one abducts the five-year-old daughter of the other. I was shocked and appalled by the narrators as they deliberated their way through the unthinkable–the abduction of a child. The characters are both deeply flawed and, perhaps, relatable to the fringe imaginings of any unhappy mother or neglected child. The story probes the female experience of motherhood and mother-daughter relationships, bringing the most disturbing and base thoughts to the center of the page. As readers, we are forced to examine our own thoughts and contemplate an impossible question: Can the abduction of a child in an unhappy living situation every be justified? After reading this novel, you will most likely be compelled to discuss it with a friend or recommend it to your local library as a book club pick. Those who love to read psychological suspense and/or domestic dramas should grab a copy of this book stat!
lauriesophee 3 months ago
"She was safe. She was fed. She had fun. She learned things. She was loved." This story is about a young woman, Sarah, who never had love from her mother. Emma, is five and there are too many similarities in Emma's life that Sarah cannot allow. Sarah makes a split second decision that she must now live with. What is the right thing? I read this novel in a day and really enjoyed it. I had mixed emotions as I turned the pages and I am sure anyone who reads this will also experience anger, frustration, and yet love for these two characters.
Laeljeanne 3 months ago
Sarah’s mother resented her existence, never failing to make her aware of the obstacle she is in life of a woman who believes she gave up fame to be a mother. So she may have been primed for kidnapping a little girl whose mother treated her in a similar manner. After a month on the run with the child, with all that entails—lying to friends and family, shifting work priorities, constant fear—Sarah’s conscience shifts. Coincidentally, her own mother contacts her after a lifetime of absenteeism. As though laying out with tweezers the contents of her life, Frey carefully portrays a mother who never wanted to be a mother in a way that even the most hardhearted reader can squeeze out a bit of sympathy for her. Confused, overwrought, overweight (the character focuses on this fact about herself excessively), she’s suspected of murdering her own child on circumstantial evidence she can’t refute. The fact that the mother wishes to improve herself redeems her, if only just. The child, however, seems way too well-adjusted and mentally healthy for the childhood she was enduring when she was taken. There was no groundwork laid to show her easy ability to make friends or readily accept changes not easily understood by small children. Even severely abused children cry for their mothers, and this one reached for hers after the mother’s hateful words of not loving her, so that completely assimilating into a new life, even a more positive one, so quickly seems to be less than credible. Furthermore, after the surprising turn of events at the climax, the father’s character inexplicably fades away. This novel raises the question of who we really are to ourselves, as Sarah repeatedly states that she is not a kidnapper, though that is exactly what she is. It also points out the challenges of a legal system that cannot, for practical purposes, factor in emotional abuse of children in removing them from the home, though this seems irrelevant here. It seems unlikely that Montessori school officials would not have notified authorities regarding the bruises that covered the child’s arms and legs. Such obvious signs of physical abuse countered Sarah’s sense of morality. Without that aspect of the mother’s bad parenting, this story would have made more sense. I was fortunate to receive an early copy from the publisher through NetGalley.
412037RH 3 months ago
Wow, great book! It is about a women, Sarah, who sees a little girl at an airport with her family and the mother is abusive to the little girl. The father seems to be ignoring her. Sarah sees how sad the little girl is and remembers her own unhappy childhood with her mother. Sarah then sees the little girl again but this time she decides to take her. She makes this little girl's life very happy. The little girls mother, Amy, seems to be glad that her daughter is gone. This story is for all the times you may have seen a parent being abusive to there child and you wanted to step in and take that child away or help in some way. Loved this author!
bamcooks 3 months ago
Sarah Walker, a successful entrepreneur, was abandoned by her mother as a child. So she knows a bad mother when she sees one and Amy Townsend is one. Twice she has witnessed tense scenes between Amy and her five-year-old daughter Emma, the most recent ending in a slap across the child's face that leaves a bright red handprint. Sarah can't resist the compulsion to grab that poor girl and run off with her. She knows how to treat her right! But then reality sets in and she realizes she will have to come up with a plan for what to do next. With AMBER alerts sent out, someone is sure to spot the little girl soon if they are out in public. Will they have to spend the rest of their lives running and hiding? And what about Sarah's business, her father, her friends? Can she leave all that behind and start over? And doubts begin to creep in...is even a bad mother better than a stranger? Very enjoyable reading but I couldn't figure out why law enforcement, both local and nationwide, seemed so inept, focusing on family for so long and missing certain suspicious details that should have lead straight to Sarah. I won't say more to avoid spoilers. But the ending was satisfying, if perhaps a little unbelievable. I received an arc from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks for providing me with an interesting story.
Caroldaz 3 months ago
This book highlighted lots of issues we often see. We see a child being yelled at and smacked in a store, what do we do? Probably nothing. Where is the line at which we would take action? Sarah sees a child being abused physically and she imagines worse. She takes the child, Emma, feeling she is saving her. The mother of Emma, Amy, finds coping with Emma difficult, she feels maybe she is not cut out for motherhood. But her child is missing and she must act like it is the end of the world for her. Emma loves being with Sarah and has done from the beginning. Does that make it all right for Sarah to keep her? Or must she give Emma back? A great story!
Caroldaz 3 months ago
This book highlighted lots of issues we often see. We see a child being yelled at and smacked in a store, what do we do? Probably nothing. Where is the line at which we would take action? Sarah sees a child being abused physically and she imagines worse. She takes the child, Emma, feeling she is saving her. The mother of Emma, Amy, finds coping with Emma difficult, she feels maybe she is not cut out for motherhood. But her child is missing and she must act like it is the end of the world for her. Emma loves being with Sarah and has done from the beginning. Does that make it all right for Sarah to keep her? Or must she give Emma back? A great story!