Book Review: An entertaining read on a twisted family tale

The Favorite Daughter by Kaira Sturdivant Rouda

Jane Harris is a mother who has suffered the loss of her beloved, favourite daughter, Mary. Mary died one year ago in a tragic accident and Jane has been in a drug induced stupor ever since.

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The anniversary of Mary’s death is approaching and Jane’s husband, David, is preparing a memorial service. This, and the imminent graduation day of Jane’s other daughter, Betsy, has spurred Jane to forgo the drugs and reclaim her life and her family.

As Jane brings herself back to life, we learn that she is a controlling woman who is out of control. David and Betsy have moved on with their lives while Jane has been out of commission. Betsy is distant and avoids Jane, but that doesn’t stop Jane ambushing Betsy from the darkness when she comes home. David works many long hours all day and into the night and can barely stand to be in the same room as Jane.

Betsy and David seem to have secrets from Jane, but little do they know that she has installed all kinds of tracking apps on her phone.  Through these tracking devices she accesses David and Betsy’s text messages and follows their every movement, using this information to inform her actions to put her family back on track.

As the memorial service and Betsy’s graduation day draw nearer, Jane begins to step up her stalking, increasing her efforts to connect her family once more. However, the more she pushes them, the more distant and exasperated David and Betsy become. As Jane’s plans fail to provide her with the desired outcome, her inside voice doesn’t always stay inside as she tries to maintain appearances in the posh, gated community in which she lives.

This is a twisted story told from the point of view of Jane’s twisted mind. Jane is such an unreliable narrator, I found myself snickering, gasping and shaking my head – her justification for her actions, her encyclopedic knowledge of the many ways someone can die, her dismay at how poorly she is being treated made this a very entertaining read. This is an ideal, albeit lighter, choice for fans of Shari Lapena and Fiona Barton.

Helen Varga is a Library Technician at the Steveston Branch of Richmond Public Library.

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