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ONLY DAUGHTER
by Anna Snoekstra
MIRA, September 2016
288 pages
$15.99
ISBN: 077831944X


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Debut author Anna Snoekstra has taken on one of the more difficult challenges in writing fiction - creating an engaging, morally ambiguous central character, who sometimes borders on unlikeable. ONE DAUGHTER shows that an intriguing scenario helps, as does pace and the provision for some readers to have some sympathy for, in this case, the imposter's situation in particular.

Right from the start imposter Bec has reasons for doing what she did. Eleven years after the real Rebecca Winter disappeared, an imposter "returns" to the family claiming to be the missing girl. Everyone - particularly her parents, seem to be happy to accept that their daughter has returned. Despite the original detective who investigated the case being a constant thorn in everyone's side, there never seems to be any question in the family's mind about the return of Bec. If there's anything at all that starts screaming "what the" at reader's it's kind of easy to go with the flow on it. On one level it doesn't seem strange that everybody is happy to accept this - and at another you sometimes can't help but wonder at what point does a parent, in particular, not know their own child. The big question is always however, at what point is the imposter going to slip up to the point where the switch cannot be overlooked?

To be fair though, readers who are happy to go along with the switch acceptance aren't being delusional or somehow convenient. It's easy to be on Team-Rebecca's-Returned side, even with a small shouty voice at the back of your head. Perhaps that's because as odd as this all seems, imposter Bec seems to be as conflicted by the whole thing as the reader. It's also very possible that readers will have a definite allergic reaction to the whole scenario - either way you can see how this is going to be one of those books that polarises pretty firmly.

There are some interesting elements throughout the book. In particular, the way Snoekstra has captured the voice and behaviour of teenage Bec before she goes missing, her relationships with her brothers, parents and friends is cleverly done. The to and fro in between the two "Becs" isn't forced and comes across as believable and engaging. It's these interactions that could warm readers to imposter Bec's situation and characterisation more and more as the book progresses.

The resolution, when it arrives, does tend to land on the reader from a height, and whilst some elements were possibly deducible along the way, motivation and the extent of the awful nature of what was happening within the family is revealed with a thud. Those of a particular sensitivity to animal cruelty may find some elements of the final resolution of this uncomfortably graphic and confronting.

Overall it's an unusual scenario built around a strong central character who will work incredibly well for those readers able to develop some sympathy and connection with her. For a debut novel it's a strong undertaking and bodes well for where Anna Snoekstra decides to take her writing in the future.

Karen Chisholm has been reading crime fiction since she could hold a book upright. When not reading she builds websites and pretends to be a farmer. Her website, AustCrimeFiction has been covering fiction from Australia and New Zealand since 2006: http://www.austcrimefiction.org/

Reviewed by Karen Chisholm, March 2017

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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