The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.
The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter bares no bones. This emotional crime mystery delves into family, grief, regret, and guilt. Known for not sugar coating the violence the story is dark and graphic, but this only adds to its intensity.
A line from the book, “a never-ending sphere,” best describes the plot. The events of past and present are circular in motion, occurring twenty-eight years apart. During the course of the novel the horrific attack on the Quinn family is re-visited a number of times, with the two sisters, Charlie and Sam, alternating their views of the incident.
The reason for the repetition, according to Slaughter, “That line from the book, “a never-ending sphere,” shows how circular life is. Charlie stops her story, because she is avoiding what happened to her. If you notice the first time she tells it the emphasis is on how others were impacted, not herself. I wanted to echo back with the point; you really cannot escape your past. You can learn to deal with it, but should not let it hold you hostage.”
On that horrible day the sisters’ life changed forever. Charlie and Sam were at home with their mother, Gamma, when two masked men entered the house. They shot Gamma dead, pushed out Sam’s eyelids, shot her in the head, and buried her alive. As Charlie tried to escape she had to endure a horrific attack as well. These assaults occurred because their dad, Rusty, defended the most evil of characters.
Slaughter used her own personal experiences to write the scenes about head injuries. “I toured military bases with the author Lisa Gardner and saw those kinds of injuries. Also, the husband of a friend of mine flipped head first over the bike handlebars. He became brain damaged. When I spoke with my friend, his wife, she talked about their struggles. This is why I put in the quote, ‘Sam often compared her first year of recovery to a record on an old turntable. She awoke at the hospital with everything playing at the wrong speed.’ Sam knew what she was and knew what her life would be like from that point onward. It can be even more psychologically scarring for people who are cognizant of what they’ve lost.”
Fast-forward twenty-eight years later with the family torn apart. Sam has moved away to NYC, becoming a successful patent lawyer. Charlie has followed in her father’s footsteps, becoming a defense attorney; although she only takes clients she believes are innocent or being over-charged for a minor crime. Having stayed in the town where she grew up she is still struggling with her demons, which is the reason behind why her husband is now estranged.
Trying to escape she decides to have a one-night-stand with Huck, a stranger, and while leaving mistakenly took his phone. During the process of exchanging phones at her old school, where Huck works, all hell lets loose. Charlie finds herself in a nightmarish situation. She is the first witness on the scene in the midst of a distressing double school shooting that includes a young child. She later discovers the shooter, Kelly, has learning issues. The incident also unleashes the terrible memories she's spent so long trying to suppress. The only one able to get her out of her fog is Sam, who returns to face her own anxieties. The sisters must work together to find the answers to the past and present events as they attempt to heal their relationship.
Grieving can be very personal and Slaughter shows the many facets of it. “I do not think all people grieve in the same way. Charlie was in denial, while Sam deals with it head on. Every morning Sam wakes up and is faced with what happened, but has learned how to deal with it. Yet, Charlie looks back on her life and realizes she is not the person she hoped to be. This makes her miserable. She keeps doing the same thing and it is not working, but never self-reflects. Rusty on the other hand damages himself by taking on more dangerous cases, drinks too much, and smokes too much, despite having a major heart attack.”
Readers will need to have their wits about them when reading this suspenseful mystery. It is a very much character driven plot where everyone will go through the heartache with the sisters. Beyond the violent crime, the story is about loss, love, survival, and forgiveness.