Happy Publication Day to Not Her Daughter by Rea Frey!

My Thoughts:

There is much to relate to in this book and much to think about…More than the typical suspense read. 

Emma is five-years old living with her mother, Amy, who is uncaring and hateful towards her, as well as her unobservant father who has no idea what happens in his own home, and her younger brother who is preferred by Amy. 

Sarah is successful at work and with owning her business, but she has dark secrets of her own difficult upbringing. Shockingly, Sarah is a kidnapper. 

When Sarah notices Emma in the airport, she finds it hard to look away. Amy is in rare form picking at Emma at every turn, overcorrecting her, and physically hurting her. Haven’t we all witnessed something like this at one time or another? What would do you do, if anything? Sarah does not take Emma at the airport, but she cannot get the child off her mind…and when a second opportunity presents itself, she takes Emma and runs. 

The structure of the narrative is between past and present with the voices of Sarah, Amy, and later, Emma. Being privy to the thoughts from all narrators added to the empathy I felt for each character. There was not one right or wrong answer for me. There were shades of gray, and adults who grew up in challenging environments finding it hard to choose a different path in life. It is easy to judge Amy. All her faults are splattered all around her for the world to see, but when you look deeper into the narrative, she is a person out-of-control who cannot seem to stop the way her life is spinning. And while Sarah may look like the more caring type, she, too, has scars and is imperfect, and hello- she abducted a child! 

I appreciated the discussion we had in our group because thoughts arose around the ethics of what happened. Who was right? Who was wrong? What is best for Emma, and who decides that? Not Her Daughter is definitely a book you will want to discuss. And beyond that, Frey writes with precise intention. The narrative flows with tension building, and the story could not have been more original. A mass of kidnapping stories are out there, but Not Her Daughter turns a new page. 

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for the ARC. All opinions are my own.

If you are interested, Holly found this interview with the author illuminating why she wrote the book. I found it insightful.


Emma Grace Townsend. Five years old. Gray eyes. Brown hair. Missing since June.

Emma Townsend is lonely. Living with her cruel mother and clueless father, Emma retreats into her own world of quiet and solitude.

Sarah Walker. Successful entrepreneur. Broken-hearted. Abandoned by her mother. Kidnapper.

Sarah has never seen a girl so precious as the gray-eyed child in a crowded airport terminal—and when a second-chance encounter with Emma presents itself, Sarah takes her, far away from home. But if it’s to rescue a little girl from her damaging mother, is kidnapping wrong?

Amy Townsend. Unhappy wife. Unfit mother. Unsure she wants her daughter back.

Amy’s life is a string of disappointments, but her biggest issue is her inability to connect with her daughter. And now she’s gone without a trace.

As Sarah and Emma avoid the nationwide hunt, they form an unshakeable bond. But her real mother is at home, waiting for her to return—and the longer the search for Emma continues, Amy is forced to question if she really wants her back.

Emotionally powerful and wire-taut, Not Her Daughter raises the question of what it means to be a mother—and how far someone will go to keep a child safe.

Have you read Not Her Daughter, or do you plan to?  Happy Reading! ~ Jennifer THR