Audiobook Review: The Favorite Daughter by Kaira Rouda
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 3.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Thriller, Suspense
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Hardcover: Graydon House | Audiobook: Harlequin Audio (May 21, 2019)
Length: Hardcover: 368 pages | Audiobook: 9 hrs and 31 mins
Narrator: Kathleen McInerney
Boy, this book is going to be a doozy to review. I mean, just how is one supposed to remain objective and impartial after spending 300+ pages inside the head of someone you think is completely delusional, despicable to the extreme, and unlikeable as all hell? Because that’s how I would describe Jane Harris, protagonist of The Favorite Daughter. Mother of the year, she is not. But then generally speaking, neither is she really a decent human being.
Before I get ahead of myself though, just a little background on the character and her story: Jane is an affluent forty-something woman living with her family in a swanky gated community in Orange County, California. By all appearances, she has the perfect life—or at least, she goes to great lengths to make sure everyone around her believes it. However, exactly one year ago, tragedy struck the family when oldest daughter Mary drowned in an accident after falling from a cliff into the ocean, and Jane has been grieving for the loss ever since.
But as the one-year anniversary of Mary’s death approaches, Jane is determined to show everyone that she is a new woman. At the upcoming Celebration of Life ceremony for Mary, she has a plan to turn everything around so that her husband David will see her in a new light and forget his late-night dalliances at the office. Their youngest daughter Betsy, who will be graduating high school in three days, will also have reason to be proud to call Jane mom. And if they still don’t wise up and appreciate her…well then, Jane will just have to show them they can’t get between her and what she wants without paying for the consequences.
All hail Kaira Rouda, queen of unreliable narrators! Needless to say, seeing the world through Jane’s eyes was a real trip. You could never be sure what was the truth, and what was merely our protagonist’s overblown opinion of herself. Though I suppose if there’s one thing we can be certain of, it’s that Jane loved Mary, and that the death of her “favorite daughter” really messed her up. So when an unknown person starts leaving notes for Jane, not so subtly hinting that Mary’s death was no accident, suddenly we have a delectable mystery on our hands.
Still, let’s go back and focus on Jane for a bit. What an unpleasant woman, but at the same time, I must applaud Rouda for writing a character so complex and capable of evoking such strange and complicated emotions from me. Mixed in with all the moments of “Wow, you’re nucking futs, lady” were also moments of tenderness where I truly felt sympathetic and pity for her situation. Heck, I even found myself cheering her on at some points. In spite of her many faults, she did lose a child, and the story did a good job making you wonder if she’d always been this horribly deluded and nasty, or if Mary’s death made her snap. Let’s just say it was immensely satisfying to see how the answer played into the bigger picture at the end.
But that also brings me to the biggest problem I had with this book, which is that The Favorite Daughter became a fairly predictable read at the end of the day and it’s the main reason why I’m not giving it a higher rating. This is my second book by Kaira Rouda after Best Day Ever, and to be honest, it feels as though she has reused many of the same themes and tactics. As a result, you could see that “twist” ending coming a mile away, which robbed the story of a lot of suspense, and without that crucial element, all you’re left with is Jane’s over-the-top whackadoodle narrative. Not that it wasn’t fun while it lasted, being in her maniacal and egotistical little mind, but I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t hoped for a bigger bombshell of an ending than the one we were given.
Had I not been able to expect what was coming, I might have enjoyed this one a lot more, though if you’ve never read anything else by the author, you probably won’t experience the same issues. If you are a fan of slow-burn mystery thrillers with unreliable narrators and an atmosphere of edginess and foreboding, The Favorite Daughter offers a situation where what you see on the surface is never how things truly are. Devious and manipulative Jane Harris might prove a very difficult protagonist to endure, but she’s also one of the most fun and interesting characters I’ve ever read—the kind to show you why you should never trust what you see or hear.
Audiobook Comments: I was also fortunate to be offered a chance to review the audiobook of The Favorite Daughter, and Kathleen McInerney was such an entertaining reader! I don’t think too many narrators can pull off someone like Jane Harris, but she did so in a very convincing manner with all the perfect inflections and tones for the character, adding so much more to the experience.