book blog · book review

Not Her Daughter by Rea Frey


Publication Date: August 21, 2018

Emma Grace Townsend. Five years old. Gray eyes. Brown hair. Missing since June.

Emma Townsend 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. Abandoned by her mother. Kidnapper.

Sarah has never seen a girl so precious as the gray-eyed child in a crowded airport terminal—and 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 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 she’s gone without a trace.

As Sarah and Emma avoid the nationwide hunt, they form an unshakeable bond. But her real mother is at home, waiting for her to return—and the longer the search for Emma continues, Amy is forced to question if she really wants her back.


*I would like to thank the publisher, St. Martin’s Press (St. Martin’s Griffin), and NetGalley for the copy in exchange for an honest review.

Not Her Daughter is a riveting tale about a missing child. But this is not your usual missing person story. It is something that will leave you in conflict with your morals. Sarah Walker, a successful businesswoman, just kidnapped a little girl. The first time she saw Emma was at the airport where her mother was shoving her and chastising her for even small things she’s doing. It brings back childhood memories with her own dispassionate mother who can’t be bothered with motherhood and instead left Sarah and her father for her Hollywood dreams. For a while, Sarah can’t forget the beautiful little girl with grey eyes and with a twist of fate, she saw her again. This time, she knew what she had to do after witnessing another cruelty from Emma’s mother. She took the little girl away from her family. While Amy, Emma’s mother, is just unhappy with her life. She doesn’t love her husband and she looks like an unfit mother when dealing with her daughter Emma. They just can’t seem to get along and she always loses patience easily around her daughter. When Emma’s gone missing, Amy was worried, sure, but she’s more anxious about what the investigation will uncover about her relationship with Emma than her safe return. And as days go by, Amy is getting used to her daughter’s absence and wasn’t sure if she even wanted to have her back.

I enjoyed reading Not Her Daughter more than I thought I would. It was very thought-provoking. Is there a such a thing as a good kidnapper? Is it right to assume that Emma is being abused basing on just a couple of scenes that Sarah witnessed? Given that she is right, does that justify taking someone else kid away from her family? Didn’t she take into consideration the father’s feeling? And also, can she get away with it? How about Amy? What would the people think of her for not wanting her child back? Is she a bad person for wanting to live her life without her family? Where does Emma truly belong? All that and more are the questions that I asked myself while reading this novel.

It started with Sarah running away with Emma and from there the story alternates from before, during, and after the kidnapping with the point of views from two women, Sarah and Amy. It can get really confusing but once I get used to the format, I can’t let go of the story. It is engaging. Sarah is the kidnapper you can’t help but root for. She believes Emma would be better off with her. Her intentions are good even though what she did is questionable. On the other hand, Amy is a mother with the missing child yet it was hard to feel sympathy towards her. Her indifference towards her own kid is not something that will warm you to her. They both have mommy issues during childhood and how they treated Emma was influenced by their past experiences. I just don’t appreciate how the two women were characterized. Sarah, as someone good is smart, beautiful and wealthy while Amy, the unfit mother is plain and heavy. I really wish it wasn’t like that.

In order to fully enjoy this book, you might have to suspend disbelief. Sure, the missing kid ending up having a good life than what they had is plausible, but it is the way Sarah and Emma managed to get away from the authority a couple of times that seems to me is a bit of a stretch, not to mention the ending. Is it really possible that the police get a really good lead and didn’t follow up with it even though they keep mentioning about it later on? I doubt it. Throughout the book, I keep thinking if Sarah’s in the right frame of mind in those times that she has Emma with her. First, they stayed at her ex-boyfriend’s cabin without his knowledge and there’s that other time when she stayed with someone she just met. For someone who’s running from the law, she sure isn’t being careful.

But anyway, Not Her Daughter is definitely a well-written tale, conflicting yet also compelling. Despite some issues I had I still find it an entertaining read, overall.





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