The Bad Daughter: A Novel by Joy Fielding


Melanie was calling for a reason, and whatever that reason was, it wasn’t good. The sisters had barely exchanged two words since their mother died, and none at all since Robin had left Red Bluff for good after their father’s hasty remarriage.

The news isn’t good, Robin’s father, his wife and her young step-sister have been in a horrific attack during a home invasion. Despite her years as a trained therapist, it’s hard to put what she has learned into practice when it comes to her own dysfunctional family. A philandering father who destroyed any bond they had, stealing her best friend Tara in the process, is on the edge of death. Who could possibly have had a reason to want to kill them? Maybe the real question is, who didn’t have a reason to kill them? What will the little girl remember from that ill-fated night, if she ever wakes up?

Then there is Melanie, Robin’s older sister who has resented her since birth. Melanie who still lives at home with her teenage autistic son. Why does her sister blame her for her own failings? She left, didn’t she? Isn’t that enough to please Melanie?

Melanie is a blunt character, maybe the only one whose true emotions are evident. Robin’s love life seems to be falling apart, based on fears her own dear daddy put on her with his many betrayals. Ever since losing the one person she felt closest too, best friend Tara, she hasn’t had anyone she is genuinely close with to share all her joys and sorrows. She also doesn’t have a reason to trust men, and her fiance seems to be ‘distracted’, hence she has put distance between them. Just another thing going wrong in her structured life. Her brother is as distant as she is, licking his wounds far away from the family. Wounds caused by his father’s disgusting transgression against him. He hasn’t spoken to dear old dad in a long time, in fact his father’s demise would be welcome, one imagines. He has a very strong reason to want to kill his father and Tara, but could he really be capable of harming Tara’s sweet little girl Cassidy too? Robin doesn’t think so.

Then there is her nephew Max, whose behaviors can’t help but raise suspicions, in the town and in Robin’s mind. Naturally, as his mother, Melanie is protective of him but why is she so angry all the time, and why is she hesitant to care about what will happen with Cassidy? It seems she wouldn’t care if she never came home, certainly doesn’t want to take on the responsibility of raising her if the worse happens to their father.

Cassidy takes an immediate liking to Robin, in fact asking to see her and not Melanie, strange considering she hasn’t known Robin and has lived around Melanie all her life. Something is seriously wrong! Suddenly her real father, a criminal, is sniffing around. There are too many possibilities, but the answers she is looking for may be closer to home than she thinks.

The relationships are great, it seems true that we return to the people our family expects us to be when we’re home. Melanie has a natural gift for knocking her sister down, regardless of her successes and Robin lets her. Melanie has a lot on her shoulders, her defensiveness about her son  Landon is relatable. I’m not supposed to like Melanie, but I do, at least you know what to expect when dealing with her. Here is another story where if I delve into the characters too much I give away the whodunit. I wish Landon was more of a character and less text-book. However, the way others perceive his behavior as suspect is close to reality.

Just who is the bad daughter here? You’ll know soon enough!

Publication Date: February 27, 2018

Random House

Ballantine Books




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