Dear Daughter

Dear Daughter: A Novel - Elizabeth Little

(I got an ARC through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.)

Dear Daughter was a compelling enough story, but I admit I thought I'd like it more. There were several moments in which the pace dragged down and the story didn't seem to progress much, and the characters didn't exactly "fill" those moments either.

Though Jane Jenkins isn't exactly a likeable protagonist, because of her demeaning attitude, I still liked her in general: she calls other people on their crap, sure, but she does the same when she's concerned, which is enough of a redeeming feature in my eyes. I can't say I smiled at all her quips (some were really not great); nevertheless, she was mildly amusing. Also, I tend to appreciate characters that aren't necessarily nice and kind. Jane had her manipulative streak, tempered by the fact she had been in prison for ten years, and sometimes this made her a little rusty, thus not perfect at her own game. Sometimes, she was clever. At other times, she realised she had made some huge blunder... and she considered it as her own, not pinning it down on someone else, even though her tone might make it appear so.

The Ardelle setting was interesting, too: derelict twin little towns, founded during the Gold Rush yet doomed to die with it, with five old families pretending that everything was nice and dandy, except every closet has its skeleton, of course. I could feel the desperate "I hate this place, but I still can't leave" atmosphere. No matter what, I wanted to read about them, be on the ride with Jane as she uncovered bit by bit who they were, their relationships, and how they may have factored in her mother's death.

The mixed media approach, with snippets from blogs, Wikipedia, etc.: I like this format, though I can't tell all of those excerpts always added a lot to the story.

On the dowside, at times the secondary characters just seemed too helpful for the sake of being helpful. Jane's identity as "Rebecca" may have fooled them, sure, but it wasn't so perfect, and I would have expected more ruthlessness, more distrust than what was shown, more tension, in a way. Even the cop's presence didn't make things that exciting (also, random vague love/sex interest that wasn't really interesting in my opinion).

I found the plot to be dragging far-fetched and flimsy in places. The clue to Ardelle/Adeline was a rather light one, and I would have found it more believable if Jane had had just a couple more hints about it, thus justifying more strongly her going there. I was given the impression that some huge secret loomed above the town, yet in the end, the aforementioned skeletons were rather... bland, and not so unexpected. This was a bit of a letdown for me. I think the most problematic part, though, was Jane's own lack of certainty regarding her mother's murderer: she never appeared as so stoned/drunk/whatever as to prove to me she may genuinely not remember. I don't know, but the mere adrenaline shot of murdering my mother would most certainly put me out of any drunken stupor I might be in. Either you know or you don't, and in this case, the mystery of "did she or didn't she?" seemed like an unfounded device.

The ending... I don't know about the ending. Somehow, it fits bith the narrative's tone, yet it made me fell "so, she did all of this for that?" Not very satisfying here.

This novel had its strong points, and my liking Jane's narative voice helped a lot in my enjoyment of it. Nevertheless, I'm putting it in the "OK-to-good" category, not more.