Daughter follows the lives of the Malcolm family after the disappearance of their youngest child; their daughter Naomi. Told from the perspective of the mother, Jenny, the reader can do nothing but helplessly watch the family fall apart after Naomi doesn’t return from her performance in the school play one evening. The chapters alternate between the days leading up to Naomi’s disappearance and the months afterwards.
After the disappearance Jenny desperately tries to see watch she missed, what she did wrong or remember anything that would give her some kind of clue as where Naomi had gone. As a reader, I felt myself assuming the worst throughout the novel, having been used to hearing such awful and gut-wrenching stories about missing children on the news. Jenny becomes her own detective in the mystery, and you follow her trails of thought all the way to the end.
One of the most poignant things about Daughter is the importance of ‘knowing’, more specifically knowing your own family. Everyone keeps secrets, but I imagine as a parent you hope that your child won’t keep harmful secrets from you. Growing up as a teenager can often feel oppressive, with parents trying to do what’s best for their child and instead coming across as invasive. There is often a pressure to conform to the values of your family, even more so if you’re just not like them.
As it turns out, Naomi was keeping secrets from her family. But so were her brothers: one of them regularly taking ketamine and the other homosexual. In some cases it doesn’t hurt to keep secrets, but those of the Malcom family prove to be better out in the open – it’s better to be honest, even if you are having an affair with a work colleague (in the case of Naomi’s dad).
This tangle of secretive behavior becomes even more chaotic after the disappearance of Naomi. At times like that everyone wants to point the finger at someone and to blame them for what’s happened. So who was to blame – Jenny for working long hours at the GP surgery, more concerned about other people’s children than her own? Naomi’s dad, for having an affair with a colleague right in front of his daughter while she was on work experience? Naomi’s boyfriend, for leading her astray and away from her family values? Or Naomi herself, for dreaming of something more than what she had?
You’ll have to read it and make up your own mind – I’m sure by the end of the novel you’ll reconsider who you think is the victim in this family drama. Definitely worth a read, a captivating story that tugs on the heartstrings of everyone.