review: She’s Not There by Joy Fielding



Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. I greatly appreciate it!

Official Synopsis
A novel of psychological suspense about a woman whose life takes a shocking turn when a young girl contacts her, claiming to be her daughter, kidnapped in Mexico years earlier, from the New York Times bestselling author of Someone is Watching.

A lifetime ago, every year Carole Shipley looked forward to her wedding anniversary. But then a celebratory trip to Mexico for the occasion with her husband and friends ended in the unsolved kidnapping of her infant daughter, Samantha. Now, fifteen years after that horrific time, divorced and isolated, Carole is forced to relive the kidnapping by reporters who call every year on the anniversary of Samantha’s disappearance. However, this year when the phone rings, Carole hears the sweet voice of a girl claiming to be her long-lost daughter. Plunged back into the world of heartbreak, suspicion and questions that led the case to run cold so many years ago, Carole doesn’t know what or who to believe. But when she starts to figure it out, she finds the answers dangerously close to home.

The ending brought tears to my eyes.

I thought I should say that before exploring the rest of the journey, because truly, the ending was sublime and it felt earned, which doesn’t happen often with these types of thrillers.

I’ve been reading Joy Fielding books since I was 14. I picked up See Jane Run because my Mum suggested it. My Granny, who was dying of a brain tumour at the time (though we didn’t know it) had read the book and been thrilled by it. So we all read it. All the women in my family, one by one. I remember later, a lunch outside on my grandparent’s deck. My Granny’s face was slack on one side – her smile slightly jagged, she was unable to eat the way she normally did. I told her I had liked the book, and she smiled. A small moment, but it’s one of the few memories I have of the end of her life.

We shared a book. A great, entertaining, electrifying mystery. It’s one of those memories you just don’t let go of – whenever I see that novel, I think of my brave and beautiful and kind Granny, who read those words right before I did. Who absorbed them, thought about them, fought with them. For it was a shocker of an ending – before ‘shocker endings’ were fashionable. It felt special to have read that with her. Of course, not knowing it would be one of the last things we shared in this life.

I like to think my Granny would have enjoyed She’s Not There with me, but who can tell? I do think she would have been as disturbed as I am with the casual use of Madeleine McCann’s disappearance and the subsequent media frenzy. While I completely understand the fascination with Madeleine – missing children are one of my ‘issues’ – you know the ones you just can’t stop thinking about? Along with animal rescue, it’s missing children. For instance, I was the only one in my circle of family and friends who knew who Jaycee Dugard or Shawn Hornbeck were when they were discovered. I’m not saying this as some sort of “brag” but it’s just the truth – I follow that news, so I’m aware.

So, when I hear about Madeleine, I feel infinitely sad – imagining how her parents feel, entrenched in darkness – what happened to her, what might continue to happen to her. It’s all so horrifying and just that. It’s horrifying.

Regardless – I’m here to review this book as it stands, and She’s Not There is as unputdownable as it gets. It begins with Caroline Shipley, in the present day, a mother tormented by the kidnapping of her daughter fifteen years before. Left with an ex-husband, an unruly daughter and only the memories of her “sweet thing” Samantha, Caroline is struggling to put one foot in front of the other, when she gets a call. A girl named Lili is on the other end. She thinks she might be Samantha.


A bomb explodes in Caroline’s life. Of course. The dream she has been dreaming for fifteen years might be coming true. But what does that dream look like? Who is Lili? And who was truly behind Samantha’s abduction?

While I guessed parts of the surprise, I didn’t guess it all. Joy Fielding is still the master of suspense, and it doesn’t ever feel like a Gone Girl redux. She manages – with a sleight of hand so perfectly positioned – to bend and twist her characters into the most unlikely positions, without it feeling unlikely at all.

However, I must give a shoutout to Caroline’s family, for being the biggest bunch of assholes I’ve ever come across. From Hunter (gag me), to Mary (die now), to Steve (shut the fuck up), to Michelle, (SERIOUSLY SHUT UP YOU BRAT) .. how did Caroline not just shut herself in a room and lock the door forever?

ANYWAY. I loved the ending. Perfection. And honestly, when it’s Joy Fielding, I’m sold to begin with. She holds a special place in my reading heart.


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