Book Review: The Daughter by Jane Shemilt

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Today I am reviewing The Daughter by Jane Shemilt for TLC Book Tours. As always, I am provided with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

About the book (from the publisher): Jenny is a successful family doctor, the mother of three great teenagers, married to a successful neurosurgeon.

But when her youngest child, fifteen year old Naomi, doesn’t come home after her school play, Jenny’s seemingly ideal life begins to crumble. The authorities launch a nationwide search with no success. Naomi has vanished, and her family is broken.

As the months pass, the worst-case scenarios – kidnapping, murder – seem less plausible. The trail has gone cold. Yet, for a desperate Jenny, the search has barely begun. More than a year after her daughter’s disappearance, she’s still digging for answers – and what she finds disturbs her. Everyone she’s trusted, everyone she’s thought she knew, has been keeping secrets, especially Naomi. Piecing together the traces her daughter left behind, Jenny discovers a very different Naomi from the girl she thought she’d raised.

Jenny knows she will never be able to find Naomi unless she discovers the whole truth about her daughter, a twisting, painful journey into the past that will lead to an almost unthinkable revelation.

My review: Secrets. They are the theme running throughout this beautifully written novel. The secrets we all hold; some relatively harmless, others much more dark in their import. Jenny, the protagonist, seems to successfully juggle the demands of her career with the demands of raising three teenagers. When her adored daughter disappears, nothing is the same as it was and the truths that are uncovered are shattering. She discovers that everyone – her husband, her twin sons, her daughter – has been keeping certain aspects of their lives secret.

What happens when those secrets are uncovered? How does one’s world change? How do we cope with the fact that we didn’t know our loved ones as well as we thought we did? How could we not know? The world tilts on its axis and we are forever changed.

Shemilt is a very fine writer. I found the story riveting. Told from Jenny’s point-of-view, it is lyrical and brutally honest at the same time. At the beginning of the book, Shemilt holds an onion out to us, beautiful and whole and seemingly complete. As the story progresses, the onion’s layers are systematically uncovered, each layer a secret that has to be peeled away in order to reveal another painful truth. The author skillfully takes us along for the ride, as Jenny searches for her daughter and faces the reality that the world she knew was merely the outermost layer of the onion.

This is also the story of the love a mother has for her children and of her commitment to them, a commitment that is sometimes resented by those she would protect, sometimes misguided, but always fierce in its single-minded devotion. Anyone who has ever loved and lost, or has learned that a loved one is not the person they appeared to be, will identify with Jenny’s struggle. I’ve been there. I know how it feels and I’ve asked the same questions of myself. How did I not know, how can this person I’ve known since the day he/she was born be so completely different than I thought? Was it all a lie?

It’s a mystery, a love story, and a cautionary tale. You will love this book.

Jane Shemilt

About the author: While working full-time as a physician, Jane Shemilt received a M.A. in creative writing. She was shortlisted for the Janklow and Nesbit award and the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize for The Daughter, her first novel. She and her husband, a professor of neurosurgery, have five children and live in Bristol, England.

Good news! One of you will be the lucky winner of a copy of The Daughter. Just leave a comment here on this post, and I will pick a winner on Monday. Good luck! U.S. readers only.

Happy Thursday.

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Henry

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Meet Henry.

We call all our groundhogs Henry, but this Henry is smaller than last year’s Henry. He lives under the shed. He likes our grass.

He’s frightened easily. This is what he does when he hears a noise. He’s listening, making sure he’s safe. If he feels threatened at all, he runs very quickly to the ramp on the shed and then he disappears. I’ve seen him peek out, head raised, waiting for an all-clear.

If Don or I see him out there, we will not let Scout out. We try to let Henry dine in peace. We’ve even stopped cutting a portion of the grass near the shed, so he can have more dining options. We’re thinking of making a sign that says ‘Henry’s Pasture.’

Are you ready for your close-up, Henry?

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I have to take these shots from inside the house, of course. If I ventured out, I would scare Henry and that defeats the purpose.

I’m glad he’s timid, because it keeps him from venturing too near the road.

Much to my surprise, a recent conversation with Don about Henry revealed that Don always thinks of him as “Henri.” A French groundhog. But, I said, then it would be pronounced differently. Not Henry (HEN ree) but Henri (an REE), with a little French nasality on the ‘n’ and that French ‘r.’

But it didn’t matter. Don thinks of him as Henri but still says Henry. I think of him as Henry.

I just thought you’d like to meet him.

My back is still troubling me, but it’s certainly better than it was. I’m taking it easy, but as you can imagine, I’m itching to DO things.

We think the man who is tweeting about that scam is most likely an innocent person who is retweeting what he thought was a good cause. So I sent him a tweet this morning that thanked him for removing the tweet.

I’m sure that GoFundMe is a good site that helps a lot of people. As you can imagine, I’ve been looking at it a lot in the last few days. Bless them for immediately taking down the site that was using my nephew’s picture. But some of the causes seem questionable. Not questionable as in the obvious scam that would use an innocent child’s picture to raise money for a bogus cause; questionable in terms of what is a legitimate need and what isn’t.

It’s all subjective, of course. But I guess you can say I’m wary of the whole thing. Wasn’t it PT Barnum who said “There’s a sucker born every minute?” Be careful.

The winner of a copy of The Dismantling  is Kathy. Congratulations! An email is on its way to you.

New post up on Just Let Me Finish This Page.

Happy Wednesday.

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Okay. Let’s Start Over.

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The last three days? Well, to put it simply: very troublesome.

First, my sister found out about someone using her little boy’s picture in a scam to raise money on the GoFundMe site. That was taken down, thank goodness. But yesterday, another reader alerted her to tweets involving the same scam. Meredith doesn’t use Twitter, so she called me to find out what to do. Don, who is already furious about what this man is doing, went on Twitter and reported the tweets, then he wrote a tweet to the man behind the scam, telling him to take it down and that he’d reported him. My college-age nephew (Little Z’s older brother) also reported it. And this morning, I noticed another tweet up, replied to the tweet telling him to take it down, that I knew it was a scam and I was reporting him, which I did. If this keeps up, I’m going to let you all know this person’s twitter profile and perhaps we can inundate this person with demands to take this stolen photo down.

Unfortunately, we are going to have to be vigilant about this. Even though the GoFundMe site was taken down, the tweets about it were still going strong, with over 400 people retweeting what was, and is, a scam.

Obviously, this has sickened and distressed my sister, as well as everyone who loves and adores my youngest nephew. Keep your eyes open, my friends, and if you see Little Z’s photo anywhere where it should not be, please let Meredith or me know.

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Then, on Sunday, the little spinning beach ball that tells you something is hung up or not working on a Mac suddenly appeared on my screen. No big deal, I thought. But I couldn’t click out of any windows. So I shut the computer down and when I turned it back on again, the infamous blinking file folder with a question mark appeared on my screen. This was my first encounter with this symbol of doom and I searched on Don’s laptop for any advice as to what to do. Nothing worked. I couldn’t get the computer to recognize the hard drive.

Crap.

Somehow, though this was about noon on a Sunday, there was an appointment open at the Apple Store for 4:45. So I booked it and Don and I drove the one hour it takes to get there. They ran a diagnostic on the laptop that showed it was either a failed hard drive or a bracket problem (related to the hard drive) or both.

They told me it would be 1 to 3 days until I could get the computer back again. But that night, a wonderful tech from the store called me to tell me that the hard drive was still okay, but the bracket had to be replaced. He tried to get back my data, but it wasn’t working, so he reset the computer to the factory settings, basically wiping it clean. He did that because he knew I had backed up my computer and that I had access to my backup and could restore everything.

I have take a moment to say that I routinely get excellent help from the Genius Bar at the Apple Store. Everyone is so helpful, so friendly and, most importantly, they take care of the problem. They don’t charge me for something I don’t need. They are unfailingly polite and extremely service oriented. Thanks, everyone!

We picked up my laptop yesterday. When I got home, I plugged in the external drive that holds my backups and ran it. It took about 5 hours to restore everything. But it’s all back, minus a few photos that I had downloaded in the last week, as my last backup was about 8 days prior to this ‘event.’ I’ll be backing up more frequently in the future. I’ll also be deleting a lot of stuff I really don’t need. Time to clean up the computer.

My friends, I cannot stress this enough: If you aren’t currently backing up your computer, you need to start NOW. If I didn’t have a backup I would have lost everything, including 28,000 photos and my photo editing software (Lightroom.) If you don’t know how to do it, or what kind of external drive you need to buy, ask a friend or Google it or go to your local electronics store and ask a professional. If you’d rather back up to the Cloud, do that. Whichever way you choose to do it, start backing up your computer regularly.

Macs don’t break down all that often but they are, after all, machines and the hardware in them only lasts so long. I’m on my computer a lot, so it makes sense that at some point, the hard drive will go. The Apple techs likened it to needing to replace the tires on a car. It’s going to happen. Backing up my laptop ensures that all my information, files, applications and photos will not be lost.

Back up your computer!!!

And then, to top it all off, as I was getting out of the car yesterday (at the mall which houses the Apple Store) I felt a twinge in my lower back/tush and I was suddenly in a lot of pain. Today, it’s even worse. Such a simple movement and one I make several times a day – getting out of the car. I had a dentist appointment today that I had to cancel. No can do.

So, there you go. Yours truly is propped up in her blogging chair with lots of pillows against her back, groaning every time she moves the wrong way.

Yikes.

May I say, enough already?

Happy Tuesday.

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Uh Oh

Hello everyone. I’m having computer troubles, as in I think my hard drive is kaput. I’m writing this on Sunday in case I don’t have the computer tomorrow. We’re taking it in to the Apple Store this afternoon.

Crap.

If you don’t hear from me for a couple of days, you’ll know why!

Update: Hard Drive is supposedly okay, a ‘bracket’ had to be replaced. But I’m going to have to restore all my files, etc. from a back up. Wish me luck! We’re picking it up this afternoon.

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Roses and My Girl

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Just because.

She’s amazing, our girl. She has good days and not-so-good days, but she’s full of spunk and she makes us laugh. In a couple of weeks, she’ll be 16½ years old. We are so blessed by her presence in our lives.

Adorable, magical Scoutie.

My rose bushes are leafing out, slowly but surely. I was worried that the brutal winter did them in, but they’re coming back. I’ve been cutting dead canes here and there, but I’m also waiting to see where leaves develop before I do much more. Right now, there are a lot of bare branches – not the most attractive look – but mother nature seems to be doing her magic. Hurrah!

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My friend Martha sent me a rose bush last year in remembrance of my mom. It’s called Remember Me. We tucked it in next to the chicken wire fence and it rewarded us with a spectacular bloom.

Here we are, almost a year later, and look what I found! It’s already developed a bud. I can’t wait to see it bloom again. Thank you, Martha. Thank you for this wonderful remembrance of my mom.

Nothing all that exciting on the agenda for this Sunday. A little trip to the nursery for some plants for the Funky Patio. Some reading. Maybe a hike with Don? We’ll see.

Something happened that I find utterly despicable. It involves both the good and the bad of being online. Thank goodness for the blog reader who alerted my sister to the situation. It’s Meredith’s story to tell, so I will direct you to her post.

As you can imagine, I want to see scumbags like this pay for their actions.

Happy Sunday.

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