Early Review: She’s Not There by Joy Fielding

She's Not ThereShe’s Not There by Joy Fielding
Genre: General Fiction
Publication Date: February 23rd, 2016
ARC provided by Netgalley and Ballantine Books

Synopsis from Goodreads: 

A lifetime ago, every year Carole Shipley looked forward to her wedding anniversary. But then a celebratory trip to Mexico for the occasion with her husband and friends ended in the unsolved kidnapping of her infant daughter, Samantha. Now, fifteen years after that horrific time, divorced and isolated, Carole is forced to relive the kidnapping by reporters who call every year on the anniversary of Samantha’s disappearance. However, this year when the phone rings, Carole hears the sweet voice of a girl claiming to be her long-lost daughter. Plunged back into the world of heartbreak, suspicion and questions that led the case to run cold so many years ago, Carole doesn’t know what or who to believe. But when she starts to figure it out, she finds the answers dangerously close to home.

Angie’s Review – 3.5 Stars – B

When I read the synopsis of this book, it immediately brought to mind Cry No More from Linda Howard. That book was a ten-hanky read for me, and it was one of my top reads of the year when I read it. While She’s Not There didn’t pack quite the emotional punch Cry No More did, I still didn’t want to put it down. On Netgalley, the publisher claims this book is general fiction, and I think that is much more accurate than the suspense/psychological thriller tags making their way around Goodreads. I have to say, this book sped by for me. The pace was steady from beginning to end, and while it may not have been suspenseful, it was gripping. There were twists and turns throughout the book that I wasn’t expecting. They weren’t mind-blowing, but they did bring an edge to the story each time a new one was revealed.

Caroline Shipley has spent the last 15 years being crucified by the press on the anniversaries of her daughter’s disappearance while her husband has gained sympathy from the media and public for simply being more emotional. As the story starts, the chapters flip-flop between the present and the events of the past leading up to the kidnapping of their daughter, Samantha. The story was better for the switch; it really keeps you in the moment. As you can imagine, the disappearance of her daughter was something Caroline never came to terms with, and the sudden arrival of a young woman claiming to be Samantha is another dagger to her already broken heart. In all the chaos that has become Caroline’s life, her daughter Michelle seems to have taken a backseat to the child who isn’t there. Michelle’s character was very authentic – her fears and questions were heartbreaking – would you have been as devastated if I’d been the one taken? While we did get to see more of Caroline than the public in the book did, she was still stand-offish and appeared to be harsh. Of course, once you meet her mother, it becomes clear why. I detested her character from the beginning of the book to the very end. There were a lot of secondary characters in this story, and while none of them were overwhelming to the plot, they were well-developed and added to the story. I am afraid to say more because I don’t want to ruin it for anyone. I will say that I guessed the ‘whodunnit’ early on, but I don’t feel as though that hindered my reading experience. This was more about the aftermath and how it only takes a single event to change your life and totally reshape everyone involved. Because of that, this story is as much (if not more) character driven as it is plot driven.

If you’re looking for a read that will keep you glued to the pages and fly right by, She’s Not There fits the bill. This was my first Joy Fielding book, but it certainly won’t be my last.

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Thank you to BALLANTINE BOOKS and Netgalley for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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