Not Her Daughter: A Novel by Rea Frey


Don’t stop moving.

Sarah Walker isn’t the usual kidnapper, a very successful business woman, though healing from the end of her stagnant relationship with Ethan, she puts all her energy into her job, traveling to other continents.  She certainly isn’t the wild-eyed, terrifying stranger all children are warned about. To five-year old Emma Grace Townsend, a precious darling girl, Sarah is more concerned about her well-being than her own mother Amy. Their first encounter happens at the airport while Sarah is in the security line before her flight to Ethiopia for work. “Something inside me wrenched.” When she spots the beautifully dressed little girl and feels instant familiarity, thinking “she could have been my very own”, her foolish delight at the doll of a child dies when she witnesses the ugliness of her mother, Amy. Pushing and shoving the child, the father completely engrossed by his phone and oblivious of his wife’s cruelties Sarah witnesses coldness remembering her own selfish, detached mother. It’s the incident in the bathroom, though, that really tugs at her heart. Is it in that moment, even after they go their separate ways, that fate ties the two?

This isn’t the life Amy wanted, caring for two children, the demands, the tedium and her daughter Emma somehow always trying her last nerve, pushing things too far. A stubborn willful child, or is she? Why does she tolerate her young son Robert better, and turn into a raving madwoman with Emma? No one knows how hard it is for her, this motherhood thing that she longs to quit! One day will change their lives forever, one explosion of fury that confirms what Sarah knows she must do. ” I ask if I can hold her hand. She lets me, and then we are walking toward the big, bold lights of the store. Our first public appearance as Sarah Walker and the Missing Girl.”

What does it mean if a mother doesn’t much miss her child? That all the rotten things she has done could lead to exposure  of her own true nature when her child vanishes? What if the authorities turn their suspicions on her? Who took her child?

Sarah can’t do what so many others seem so eager to, turn their back on a child in desperate need. She knows all too well what life is like for a child in the storms of a cold mother. The reader reaches into the past as witness to she and her father living as if waiting forever for her own mother to return. Abandoned in youth, a unwannted, discarded thing Sarah and Emma may as well be the same person. There are no options beyond committing a crime, the system is broken and the only way out is through rescue. Can a kidnapping be a rescue? Is it a crime if your offer is salvation? Is Amy really the monster Sarah has painted her?

This is a love story, but not about Sarah and Ethan’s broken love. It is about the love between a woman and a child of the heart, if not womb. It is an interesting provocative tale, but my issue was with the ending. It’s easy to say this could never happen, eyes are everywhere today, she’d be caught, but we know all to well from stories of abductions that it is plausible to take a child that isn’t yours, there have been plenty of tales of adult children finding out they are a missing child. Obviously Sarah’s logic is skewed from her own broken childhood and mommy issues, she is adamant that what she is doing is necessary. Though, why not worry about the baby, I mean really if Amy is this monster of a mother it would only be a matter of time before her rage turns on him too? No? I guess a baby is harder to abduct. Okay her money makes it much easier to up and go, to set up a new life, to hide. A child will change as it grows up, be less recognizable, if you settle into surroundings you would be nothing more than a single mom and her daughter, move along nothing to see here, but still this easy?

It does seem fate works more often in Sarah’s favor than not when on the run. Does everyone get what they want in the end? I am still reeling and arguing with myself about it, forget the whole right and wrong aspect, the law doesn’t work that way. I still think about her baby brother, why is that not even an issue much. Oh he’ll just forget her, because a child won’t be tortured for life about the ‘not knowing’ as they grow up. I know, he won’t remember her sure they’ll keep her abduction a secret, because secrets never get out. Amy, I just don’t see Amy chosing as she did in the end if for no other reason than to come out looking like a better human being than she is, exonerating herself.  I can’t say more.

I think it’s an interesting story, that begs the question, how culpable are we all in what we witness? We all know how turning people in turns out, kids can end up in even more dangerous abusive situations or worse, parents wiggle out of accusations and the children are back with the abuser. What a tangled tale.

Publication Date: August 21, 2018

St. Martin’s Press


One thought on “Not Her Daughter: A Novel by Rea Frey

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s