Yep, right in the feels.
I was hoping to write a really thoughtful review about this book, which I loved, and want all of you to love too, but right now my brain is a mushy mess.
For one, I’m getting over a head cold which has rendered me capable of not much more than groaning and whining – noises that signal my husband to fetch me meds, water, food or a combination of the three (he just has to guess.)
Secondly, I think the sheer magnitude of this tome has burnt me out. It’s a smidgen over 500 pages. And 99% of the time, when I read a book that big I am screaming for editing to parse it down. But when it comes to the Quinn family saga, I wouldn’t know where to start. There is literally not a word wasted by Karin Slaughter – an epic feat when you consider just how much book there is to devour.
But by the end, I was emotionally drained by Sam, Charlie and Rusty Quinn, and I don’t have the vocabulary left to fully express myself (she says as she goes on to write a dissertation sized review)…
The Good Daughter is an in-your-face, visceral experience, that is as much disturbing and unflinching, as it is heartbreaking and human. I didn’t love it as much as I loved Pretty Girls, but I did emotionally connect with this book more than I have any book in a really long time, and I think that has everything to do with the two sisters this story revolves around, Sam and Charlie. Pretty Girls involved that complicated sister relationship as well, but in this book, there is just something magical happening on the pages. It’s next-level.
I have one sister. I’m older by 14 months. It’s just the two of us. The relationship between sisters is something that is so hard to describe. The relationship between sisters who have no other siblings, even harder. But the relationship between sisters who’ve also gone through dark times together is impossible, period. I wouldn’t know where to begin in describing how I feel about my sister – the things we’ve gone through, the different perspectives we have on the same events, the bond we have, the love we have, the hate we have…it’s so complex. It’s so nuanced. It’s so many different emotions (or feels, if you prefer.)
But, give Karin Slaughter 500+ pages and she manages to create something that is so close to reality I knew exactly what these characters were feeling – especially Sam, the oldest. I cried, I laughed, I was annoyed, I was understanding. (Note to self: check if Slaughter has a sister.) It is, beyond a doubt, Karin Slaughter’s unparalleled gift of characterization that has me in such awe of her. Especially, for a thriller writer – she stands heads above the rest in this regard.
There are a couple of intriguing mysteries bringing these two sisters together, and simultaneously pulling them apart.
One, a 28-year-old event that destroyed their family, killed their mother, left Charlie with emotional wounds that have never healed, and Sam with physical wounds that have changed her life forever. And a present day tragedy – a “low-functioning” 18-year-old girl enters her middle school right before first bell and unloads a 6-shot revolver, killing two people. Page-by-page, Slaughter meticulously, and with tender care, unfolds a family drama meets legal thriller, that is both riveting and intelligent. She examines, with soft nuance, the ideas a familial bonds, the legal system, feminism, bigotry, rape, infertility, American gun violence, red and blue state cultural divides and human nature.
Slaughter’s writing is tough and dark, stark and raw. I’ve seen a lot of people say it’s not for the squeamish, but I didn’t find it disgusting or full of gore. It is brutal in its honesty, but never uses cheap thrills for the sake of gross out effect. If by “squeamish” we mean readers who would rather not be confronted with the dark realities of life – then no, it’s not for the squeamish.
The realities of rape are uncomfortable. The realities of death are uncomfortable. The realities of hatred are uncomfortable. But every moment described is purposeful, and with intent. Each act is critical in building our understanding of the characters and of their journey.
This is not a beach read. It’s a thunderstorm read.
It’s a human experience that requires a reader who can sit with uncomfortable subjects and not look away. Just hold your breath.
This is a character driven experience. The school shooter of present takes a backseat to the family trying to exist in the same space with each other, navigating their pasts and their perspectives and their wounds. Every character is so full of life, so believable, that at times I forgot I was reading something fictional – Slaughter is completely attuned to their individual existences. Sam and Charlie will get under a reader’s skin, I would say especially if that reader is a sister with a sister. Their love/hate relationship was compelling and heartbreaking, and made every other point within the plot feel more visceral.
The plotting of this was exceptional – the back and forth between past and present, between each sister’s perspective – helped create the sense of layers and depth, making it multi-dimensional and really allowing the sisters to become full beings, not just characters. While, at the same time, with each layer unwrapped, the reader learns a little bit more about that day 28 years ago, and about the school shooter of present – the mystery, which would have otherwise not seemed to have much substance at all, suddenly becomes riveting.
This was, for me, truly an exceptional experience in crime fiction reading.
Total, unbridled worship for Karin Slaughter.
*Migrated review: Originally posted on Goodreads in November 2017
Back of the Book:
The stunning new novel from the international #1 bestselling author — a searing, spellbinding blend of cold-case thriller and psychological suspense.
Two girls are forced into the woods at gunpoint. One runs for her life. One is left behind…
Twenty-eight years ago, Charlotte and Samantha Quinn’s happy small-town family life was torn apart by a terrifying attack on their family home. It left their mother dead. It left their father — Pikeville’s notorious defense attorney — devastated. And it left the family fractured beyond repair, consumed by secrets from that terrible night.
Twenty-eight years later, and Charlie has followed in her father’s footsteps to become a lawyer herself — the ideal good daughter. But when violence comes to Pikeville again — and a shocking tragedy leaves the whole town traumatized — Charlie is plunged into a nightmare. Not only is she the first witness on the scene, but it’s a case that unleashes the terrible memories she’s spent so long trying to suppress. Because the shocking truth about the crime that destroyed her family nearly thirty years ago won’t stay buried forever…
Packed with twists and turns, brimming with emotion and heart, The Good Daughter is fiction at its most thrilling..