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Daughter, Disappeared By F. MacBain | Berg’s Book Club

Book cover art for Daughter Disappeared! by Fiona Macbain. An arm reaches up to the surface from somewhere in the ocean.

Book Title: Daughter, Disappeared
Author: Fiona MacBain
Genre: Thriller, Travel, Romance
Published: November 2016
Publisher: Fionamacbain.com
Star Rating: ★★★


Introduction

For today’s Berg’s Book Club, I will be reviewing Daughter, Disappeared by Fiona MacBain. This book review is the first book review that an author has requested me to write. I’m excited about this. A thank you to Fiona MacBain for this opportunity.

Daughter Disappeared
Book Review

As the title of this book suggests, this is a story about the disappearance of the main character’s daughter. Daughter Disappeared by Fiona MacBain is a multi-narrative, young Adult psychological thriller that explores the potential dangers of family secrets and the consequences of lying. However, it also touches upon some controversial subjects. This book shows the potential for the author’s future work and has a lot of coincidences while also showing potential in the author’s future work.

Initial thoughts

I’ll be honest, I didn’t have high expectations for this book. Daughter, Disappeared just seemed like an awkward phrase and after reading the book I still think it deserves a better title. However, I liked the storyline and plot a lot.

Before I go into detail about this book, let me tell you about the journey I had with it. This book received different reactions at different points in the story. At first, it looked like this book was going to be 4 stars. Then it slowly crept down to 3 stars. But something really frustrating happened. Fiona – probably unintentionally – suggested that biological families are stronger than adopted families. Straight away the 3 dropped down to 1.

If the protagonist’s sister never knew their mother, then I highly doubt that she would feel so close to the birth mother over her adopted parents, similar to Wilson’s book, Midnight. However, unlike Wilson, this conflict was resolved in the end by the daughter, Anna’s storyline to an extent that I now know the author does not believe biological family is stronger. Hence why it crept back up to three.

Synopsis

1994: Jane has no idea of the horrors in store when she plunges into a new life in North Africa with her recently discovered sister, Crystal. When she falls in love with Ali, she believes happiness is within her grasp. But Ali persists in digging into secrets that Crystal and her brutal husband have been hiding. Jane’s idyllic life starts to crumble. How far will Jane go to save herself and her sister?

2013: Almost twenty years after rebuilding her life back in London, Jane’s fragile peace is destroyed when her daughter, Anna, disappears to Tunisia in search of her father. Jane follows, desperate to prevent her falling into the clutches of the people Jane escaped from all those years ago.

-Goodreads

Plot and Writing Technique

I loved the style of the writing and the grammar was great. The story’s well written and the plot keeps you guessing. However, there are a few weaknesses. One is that there is a lot of exposition rather than showing. Therefore, I struggle to visualise the story and the world the character is experiencing.

Daughter, Disappeared is written in two time periods: 1994 and 2013. I felt that the order of the chapters were wrong, killing some of the suspense too soon. The order of the chapters meant that I knew some of the events already. This is because the event happened in the 1994 timeline, covered in the previous chapter. The surprise was taken away.

But this is my own preference and is not necessary. Others may like the order in which this was written.

I also believe that Macbain used the wrong narrative. The story is written in third-person – omniscient narrative, which can work. However, the characters tell their emotions rather than show them, which makes me think that it suits the first-person narrative better. But that’s just my personal opinion though, linked to the first issue, exposition over showing.

I liked the ending, it was one of the more visual scenes in the book and was beautiful but probably could do with less dialogue. I got a real sense of what the author was trying to do. It’s here that MacBain resolves biological over adoptive family issue. The author is actually saying all family matters, biological or not.

Characters

I liked the characters, I felt like I could see and understand them but I couldn’t connect to them. I feel this is because of the third-person narrative. It stops me from seeing inside the character’s head and because Macbain tells us their thought process, I couldn’t see the characters’ struggles. An example of this is a sentence roughly 40 pages in:

Jane was nervous of going straight to Crystal’s house and announcing out of the blue that she was her long lost sister…

p40

Anyone would be nervous. And if you have ever had anyone say they are a long lost relative to you (I have), it would be out of the blue. If Macbain used a different technique to demonstrate this, this sentence would have been better. Body language like rubbing the back of your neck, and hopping on your feet are useful here. Dialogue can also hint at feelings, which is another minor flaw I’ll touch upon later. There were many sentences like this so I didn’t get the same feelings as the protagonist. Never be afraid to get closer and analyse every body movement this emotion makes them feel.

Character loyalties

As mentioned previously, I also found their loyalties to different characters odd. I understand Jane’s attachment to her mother, but because Crystal was adopted, I assumed she didn’t know who her birth mother was. And even if she did, she’d have named her husband’s ship after her adopted mother. It would have been her adoptive mother that raised her for 18 years, afterall. I also found it too coincidental that Jane and Crystal had the same interests; mainly art. I think it’d have been better if they were binary opposites as this would have added more tension. However, there is plenty of tension between Jane and Crystal without them having different interests.

Jane sees Crystal is treated as a housewife, expected to be only there for her husband. His slave physically, mentally and sexually and due to Jane’s cultural upbringing, she interferes, trying to give Crystal extra freedom. At the same time, Jane has tension with her love interest, Ali.

Ali uses Jane to get close to her brother-in-law, who Ali suspects, is responsible for his brother’s disappearance. He tries to step back when he realises that they were really falling in love but when Jane finds out the truth she is already pregnant with his baby. There is also tension between Crystal and Ali because of the missing brother.

Character Conflict

I love how much tension and conflict is in this story, it is great and it kept me reading the rest of the story. All the characters develop through their experiences, but Crystal is the most interesting one and I think this is fitting as Crystal is the only one that stays naivé and innocent to what is going on but still struggles as much. Being married at a young age, she is not sure what is right and wrong in a relationship, so some of her experiences have given her depression.

The depression is also related to an incident when she first arrived at Tunisia which suggests that even though she is innocent she is aware that something is wrong, even though she isn’t sure what it is. When her pregnancy is coming to a close end, Crystal decides to run with her sister to make sure the baby has a better life.

By the end, I liked the characters. I liked what Fiona tried to illustrate and how unique each one of them was. I also loved the circle that was implemented. How Ana, the protagonist’s daughter, seemed to repeat the same mistakes as her mother.

Dialogue

As a writer myself, I find dialogue the most challenging part of writing a story. It’s hard to get right because there is so much that needs to be considered. How each character talks differently, what makes them unique, how to phrase things, the spoken grammar of the character and how much to say.  Fiona considers all of these, which I think is why her dialogue is well-written. There are one or two lines I personally would have cut, but it’s not a major issue.

The one issue that I had with the dialogue was that there wasn’t any when there could have been. For example, Jane states that she told someone a story of events, but we never actually see her tell them. So really the issue is another show, don’t tell issue rather than a dialogue issue.

Overall Thoughts

Overall, this isn’t a bad book. It’s good, I like it but like many books, there are improvements that can be made. I think for a first book, it is good and the ‘show don’t tell’ technique is something that is developed as writing skills improve. The storyline is engaging and intriguing and the characters all stand out as unique, which many new writers usually struggle with.

It really has potential and I wouldn’t kick it off your to-read list just yet. I am really looking forward to reading Fiona’s next book, Glasdrum.


Thanks for Reading

I hope you enjoyed this review, what do you think of the book? If you liked this post, you might like other great book reviews.

~Shannon~

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