She’s Not There
by Joy Fielding
Double Day Canada February 23, 2016
I was in a reading rut. A hell I would not wish on my fond enemy. But on Saturday, I finally found reprieve. She’s Not There threw the proverbial raft to save me from an ocean of misery.
About the book
It’s been 15 years since Caroline’s daughter disappeared from her crib at a hotel in Mexico on their 10th year wedding anniversary. Every year on the day of her disappearance, she’s had to deal with the guilt and the shame that the entire world has made her feel. The world hasn’t forgiven her. She hasn’t forgiven herself. And yet, she’s never lost hope. So when she receives a phone call from a girl who claims that she might be her long-lost daughter, she followed her instinct and flew to Canada to meet her. But she didn’t show up. Days later, she showed up at her doorstep in San Diego and threw her life into a frenzy. Old wounds and old hurts will be opened. Lili’s appearance might very well widen the distance between Caroline and her oldest daughter’s already difficult relationship. But Caroline will face anything – even being hounded by the media – just for a chance to finally find out the truth, absolve her of guilt, and to be reunited with a piece of her heart that’s been missing for 15 years.
Joy Fielding perfectly captures a parent’s worst nightmare in her latest work. While I never would leave my kids in a hotel room all to themselves (especially at such young ages), she shows how easily it was for Caroline to succumb to her then husband’s reassurances that everything was fine. Caroline took the brunt of the blame and the ridicule that the world threw their way. Never mind, that it was her husband’s suggestion to leave the kids in their room while they dined with their friends. Never mind that her husband only stayed a week longer than her three months waiting for word from the authorities. She was unfairly scrutinized to within an inch of her life. But even if I was angered by this, I can’t help but feel that Caroline did have a victim complex. She didn’t speak up. She didn’t cry foul. She took all of the injustices in stride. She even took the abuse from her oldest daughter. I don’t know if it was because they already had a precarious relationship to begin with, but the tension between the two never let up over the years.
This book made me go through a tumult of emotions for all the characters involved. I was angered by the ex-husband who lied when he said he checked out the kids when he didn’t; I was mad at the world who cast the stone at Caroline; I was even mad at the tempestuous older daughter who was difficult from the get go.
She’s Not There was a one-sitting read for me. I read it with ease all thanks to Joy’s effortless writing. I recommend this to those who enjoys light psychological thriller and an emotional powerhouse. This book gave voice to a resonating nightmare that I bury at the back of my mind every time I leave my 14-year-old and my 9-year-old at home. I always tell them to set the house alarm. Lock the doors. Don’t answer the phone from an unfamiliar number, and never, ever answer the door when someone knocks and we’re not home. It’s that sick feeling I always get whenever I’m not around my kids.