Book Review: The Favorite Daughter by Kaira Rouda

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Publish Date: May 21, 2019

“That’s the power of the bond between mothers and daughters. It can never be broken, even in death.” – The Favorite Daughter

Favorite Daughter

Jane Harris lives in a sparkling home in an oceanfront gated community in Orange County. It’s a place that seems too beautiful to be touched by sadness. But exactly one year ago, Jane’s oldest daughter, Mary, died in a tragic accident and Jane has been grief-stricken ever since. Lost in a haze of anti-depressants, she’s barely even left the house. Now that’s all about to change.

It’s time for Jane to reclaim her life and her family. Jane’s husband, David, has planned a memorial service for Mary and three days later, their youngest daughter, Betsy, graduates high school. Yet as Jane reemerges into the world, it’s clear her family has changed without her. Her husband has been working long days—and nights—at the office. Her daughter seems distant, even secretive. And her beloved Mary was always such a good girl—dutiful and loving. But does someone know more about Mary, and about her last day, than they’ve revealed?

The bonds between mothers and daughters, and husbands and wives should never be broken. But you never know how far someone will go to keep a family together…

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This story opens up with Jane, who has finally emerged from her year-long fog of grief from her daughter Mary’s sudden and unexpected death. She is starting to re-engage with husband David and younger daughter Betsy who both have big secrets. The book is told from Jane’s perspective, and this is really entertaining because Jane is a narcissist.

Kaira Rouda says that narcissists are everywhere in our society. Some estimate that narcissists comprise of 10% of the population, and that social media is creating more because selfies are a narcissist’s best friend.

Kaira Rouda has the best description of a narcissist: “These characters are obsessed with perception. Everything they show to the world is carefully calculated to portray perfection, even when their lives are falling apart. Narcissists suffer from a self-esteem problem coupled with low empathy. Grandiose self-worth, vanity and entitlement are the foundation of the disorder.

My opinion of Jane swayed back and forth. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her at the way that her family treats her. Jane seems to have good intentions but she feels very misunderstood. Her husband is cheating on her, and her daughter despises her, but did she cause this or is she a victim of the circumstances? Is she a grieving, heartbroken mother or a messed-up narcissist? How and why did Mary die? These burning questions kept me reading.

As the book progresses, Jane’s calm and cool demeanor crumbles and she becomes unhinged, but it happens gradually through Jane’s humorous, dark perspective. I laughed out loud many times. I hated David for cheating on his wife. I rooted for Jane and wanted her to get revenge on David and pay for what he did. So what if she’s crazy?! Jane needs retribution!

Here are some funny quotes from Jane:

“Marriage is hard for everyone. If you tell me you haven’t had a few bumps in your wedded road, then you’re lying.”

“Don’t act all superior and pretend like you haven’t spied on your kids. All parents do it. We eavesdrop during carpool, we put tracking spyware on their phones and in their cars. Sometimes we listen outside of their bedrooms.”

“Retribution is coming my way, though, so let me hear a hallelujah. Don’t think of me as spiteful, please.”

“This is going to be the best day ever. “ (Sound familiar?)

Jane Harris is just as fascinating as Paul Strom, the character from Kaira Rouda’s first book, Best Day Ever. There are some similarities between the two characters, but Jane is more layered, complex, and an unreliable narrator. I like Jane more than Paul. I had a hard time completely hating her because of her circumstances, but it’s obvious that she is cray cray.

Kaira Rouda’s writing is compelling and engaging, ominous, darkly funny, and creepy. She is a master at creating narcissistic, psychopathic, and sociopathic characters that you love to hate but relate to on some level. If you like books with unpredictable, crazy female characters like Lydia from Lying In Wait by Liz Nugent, or Louise from Social Creature by Tara Isabella Burton, then this book is a must-read for you.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars 4 Stars

Note: I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley  in exchange for an honest review.

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