I’m going to be completely honest here. Women’s Fiction isn’t a genre I dive into very often, and as much as I hate to admit it, I’ve never read Girl on the Train, Gone Girl, or even Alexandra Burt’s first book Remember Mia.
All that being said, I was not prepared for how much I enjoyed The Good Daughter.
I’ll try to stay as spoiler free as possible, as each page turning chapter really should be left for the reader to enjoy.
The Good Daughter takes you to the small town of Aurora, Texas, where Dahlia Whaler is on the hunt to discover who she is and what happened in her past. Right off the bat, I was captivated by Burt’s knowledge of Texas. She leaves you with the feeling of dust in your mouth and sun on your skin, where the summers are too hot for too long. It’s the perfect setting for missing women, murder, and a little bit of American folk magic.
It’s in Aurora that Dahlia tries to make sense of the images of her childhood. Pictures filled with a half mad mother, Memphis, stuffy cars, and run down “no-tell-motels”. With her mother’s mental health slipping, Dahlia’s starting to find cracks in her own foundation, leaving her to ask, is she going crazy, too? While she’s trying to come to terms with this possibility, there are point of view switches from her to Memphis, and two women from the past. Quinn, a woman in a loveless marriage, and Aella, someone who could easily be described as a back wood, Texas conjurer.
Where I think the book really shined was during Aella’s story. Everything about this character left me wanting more, and I would love to read a book about just her. Burt knows her folklore and Aella’s, for lack of a better term, magic is dark, gritty and is reminiscent of what you’d find in a Southern Gothic horror.
The chapters with Aella and Quinn interacting were by far the most enjoyable and made Quinn the second most likely character to steal the show. Quinn’s desperation and Aella’s strong will made for well crafted scenes with dialogue that’ll make you question who really controls the world. Fate, God, or something darker?
I do wonder if Burt enjoyed writing her third person perspectives more so than Dahlia’s first person? Reading about Quinn’s life, Aella’s private workings, or even Memphis’ mental instabilities had smoother transitions and tended to read clearer. That being said, Dahlia’s unreliable narrative did keep me guessing for most of the book.
The relationship between Memphis and Dahlia was another part of this book that I think a lot of readers will enjoy. Not every mother daughter relationship is sunshine and roses, and sometimes the child has to be more of the parent. Burt captures the strange dynamics between the two and anyone who’s been in Dahlia’s shoes will be able to relate.
I also appreciate the parallels between the drama in Dahlia’s life, and her hunt for who she is. Dahlia’s past is interwoven with a search for the identity of a Jane Doe, the struggle with a sad excuse for a dog, and an array of missing women that Dahlia finds herself in the middle of. Each side story and subplot ties into Dahlia’s life, and if you overlook them, you’ll be missing a major part of the book.
My only wish was that the ending hadn’t felt so rushed. Just as the book hit it’s climax, it ended. I was left with a “that’s it?” feeling, in spite of how much I liked how some of the characters’ stories were wrapped up. The suspense that held you throughout the novel slowly loses steam, and I wanted more. That being said, I’ll definitely be giving The Good Daughter another read, and have already shared my copy with a few other friends.
In the end, I loved The Good Daughter. It made me rethink the Women’s Fiction/Suspense genre, and was enough to make me add similiar books to my reading pile. A must read for people who like stories about self discovery through a dark past.
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