What I’m Reading: Not Her Daughter

From the book jacket:

Gripping, emotional, 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.

Emma Townsend. Five years old. Gray eyes, brown hair. Missing since June.

Emma 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. Kidnapper.

Sarah has never seen a girl so precious as the gray-eyed child in a crowded airport terminal. 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 whether 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 Emma is gone without a trace.

As Sarah and Emma avoid the nationwide hunt, they form an unshakeable bond. But what about Emma’s real mother, back at home?

My review:

Oh man, this book! I don’t know if it’s because I’m a mom or if it was just that captivating, but I really had the hardest time putting it down. Everything I learned about morals and ethics in first-year university came crashing back into my memory; it really begs the question, what would YOU do if you were Sarah?

I think as a parent, I can see myself in both Sarah and Amy. Sarah just wants the best for Emma – a compassionate relationship with someone who truly cares about her, but goes to the utmost extreme to ensure that for her. Amy reflects every mom who is just plain tired – tired of kids who don’t listen, tired of a life that she feels isn’t hers, but unfortunately, she has a difficult time managing her darkest emotions and lashes out at Emma.

Are either women in the right? I have zero legal background but I’m going to go out on a limb and say no. However, like I said, it really makes you question what you would do if you were in Sarah’s situation. Knowing vaguely how the system works, it would be tough to just let the authorities take control of the situation, but let’s not make this an excuse to say that kidnapping is okay.

My biggest question about this book is, why didn’t Sarah get caught sooner, especially given the fact that she was made fairly early in her escapades. I think this is also her reason why I’m rounding my rating down by a half-star as well; in today’s world with all of the technology we have access to, I have can’t believe that Sarah would have gotten away with kidnapping/protecting/adopting Emma.

Anyway, I really suggest that regardless of whether or not you have kids, pick up this book! I likely would’ve read it in one sitting if I didn’t need to sleep.

My rating: ★★★★½/5 stars

What I’m Reading: Hum if You Don’t Know the Words

From the book jacket:

Life under Apartheid has created a secure future for Robin Conrad, a nine-year-old white girl living with her parents in 1970s Johannesburg. In the same nation but worlds apart, Beauty Mbali, a Xhosa woman in a rural village in the Bantu homeland of the Transkei, struggles to raise her children alone after her husband’s death. Both lives have been built upon the division of race, and their meeting should never have occurred… until the Soweto Uprising, in which a protest by black students ignites racial conflict, alters the fault lines on which their society is built, and shatters their worlds when Robin’s parents are left dead and Beauty’s daughter goes missing.

After Robin is sent to live with her loving but irresponsible aunt, Beauty is hired to care for Robin while continuing the search for her daughter. In Beauty, Robin finds the security and family that she craves, and the two forge an inextricable bond through their deep personal losses. But Robin knows that if Beauty finds her daughter, Robin could lose her new caretaker forever, so she makes a desperate decision with devastating consequences. Her quest to make amends and find redemption is a journey of self-discovery in which she learns the harsh truths of the society that once promised her protection.

Told through Beauty and Robin’s alternating perspectives, the interwoven narratives create a rich and complex tapestry of the emotions and tensions at the heart of Apartheid-era South Africa. Hum if You Don’t Know the Words is a beautifully rendered look at loss, racism, and the creation of family.

My review:

I will admit that my knowledge of Apartheid is minimal, aside from perhaps a small scene in Lethal Weapon 2. So, I was curious about this book and drawn to it with hopes that I’d learn a little bit more.

While I gained a slightly better understanding of the various events that occurred during this time period, I wasn’t pulled into the story like I had hoped I would be. Robin’s character development took a particularly odd turn near the end; while her desire to seek redemption was understandable, the way she set out to do so was a bit of a head scratcher. Beauty’s storyline was much more intriguing and interesting to follow; if Hum if You Don’t Know the Words strictly revolved around her I think I would’ve enjoyed it more.

While Marais did a decent job showing compassion and acceptance during a time of hate and despair, somewhere along the storyline this stopped mattering and over-the-top actions took its place. Hum if You Don’t Know the Words was likened to The Help but I’m not so sure it carries the same amount of passion. Perhaps it’s a personal preference, but I just didn’t love it like I thought I would.

My rating: ★★★/5 stars

What I’m Reading: Leaving Time

From the book jacket:

For more than a decade, Jenna Metcalf has never stopped thinking about her mother, Alice, who mysteriously disappeared in the wake of a tragic accident. Refusing to believe she was abandoned, Jenna searches for her mother regularly online and pores over the pages of Alice’s old journals. A scientist who studied grief among elephants, Alice wrote mostly of her research among the animals she loved, yet Jenna hopes the entries will provide a clue to her mother’s whereabouts.

As Jenna’s memories dovetail with the events in her mother’s journals, the story races to a mesmerizing finish. 

My review:

When I’m wanting to read a real, solid book, Jodi Picoult is pretty much a no-brainer. Leaving Time is a few years old now, but I’ve yet to read it so I thought I’d give it a go thanks to a special deal on Kobo.

While I’ll admit that it was a little long in some areas, I really enjoyed reading Jenna, Alice, Virgil, and Serenity’s stories. Reading about the elephants, however, was probably the most heart-wrenching but captivating parts of the book for me.

The ending, like many reviewers before me, took me for a loop but I loved it. Honestly, I didn’t even clue into the twist until the moment it happened. Slow clap for Picoult!

Perhaps it was the slog of the last book I read, but I really, really loved Leaving Time.

My rating: ★★★★★/5 stars