She's Not There
Joy Fielding
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Buy *She's Not There* by Joy Fieldingonline

She's Not There
Joy Fielding
368 pages
February 2016
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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Carole Shipley is living every parent’s worst nightmare. On a family trip to Mexico, Carole and her husband, Hunter, make the fateful decision to leave their two young children unattended in the hotel room while they celebrate their anniversary dinner with friends and family. When they return, their older daughter, Michelle, is alone in the room and two-year-old Samantha is gone. Where is Samantha?

The stricken couple works with the authorities and the media to search for the missing child. The authorities have no clues. The media portrays Carole as an unfeeling mother whose story is both suspicious and inconsistent. Despite all their efforts, Samantha is gone. After returning home, the couple struggles to maintain their relationship in the face of unspeakable grief for their lost child. In the end, they divorce. Their older daughter Michelle grows up in a broken home and acts out in dangerous ways.

As the novel begins, Carole is anticipating the painful celebration of the fifteenth anniversary of Samantha’s disappearance. Her daughter would be seventeen now. The press still hounds her on these anniversaries with stories about her incompetence as a mother and her seemingly cold response to Samantha’s disappearance. Michelle is doing community service for a drinking and driving incident and is struggling to find meaning in her life. Hunter has remarried and has a new baby. On the anniversary date, Carole gets a strange phone call from a young lady in Calgary, Alberta, claiming to be the long-lost Samantha. Could she be alive? Will this be the end of Carole’s nightmare? What will she discover about that night fifteen years ago when Samantha disappeared?

One of the most intriguing aspects of this novel is the psychological portrait of a mother obsessed with the disappearance of her daughter. Carole has struggled to overcome her guilt and grief while dealing with a divorce, a difficult daughter, and a ruined teaching career. The initial phone call from a mysterious young lady claiming to be Samantha both shocks and frightens Carole. Her desperate desire to find her lost daughter overrides any personal concerns about meeting a stranger who could be a con artist trying to take advantage of her grief.

Joy Fielding graduated with a BA in English Literature in 1966. She moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career but continued to write as a hobby. Eventually, she returned to Toronto where she began her writing career. Some of her books include Jane Run, Mad River Road, Missing Pieces, Whispers and Lies, and Someone Is Watching. Today she divides her time between Toronto and Palm Beach, Florida.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Myra Junyk, 2016

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