Dear DaughterDear Daughter by Elizabeth Little
My rating: 4/5 cats
One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Multi-tools are like insults, girls—you should always have one on hand

you’re not going to like this narrator. and you’re not meant to. the author knows what she’s doing – walking that popular gillian flynn female-antihero line, and the narrator herself would definitely not like you, so all’s fair. this book is definitely a good readalike for flynn-fans, although it has a slightly less nihilistic edge, and less colorful violence.

it’s about a firecracker of a girl named jane, raised in flamboyant, isolated wealth and kept at an emotional arms-length by her elegant and dignified mother. she grows into beautiful, bitter, controlling young adulthood, all “fuck-you” façade and calculating manipulation, as self-destructive as she is tightly self-controlled, careening through life on a mission to get what she wants and embarrass her mother while getting it.

There are those for whom recklessness is a state of abandon. Of thoughtlessness. Of a conscious decision to ignore repercussions and eventualities. And I bet it’s liberating for them, like spinning in circles and falling to the ground. But that’s not me. My recklessness was a demonstration of restraint. I spun in circles to prove I could walk a straight line after.

when jane is seventeen, her mother is violently murdered in their home, and all signs seem to point to jane being her killer. she has no memory of the night of the crime, but the evidence puts her in jail for ten years, until some evidentiary mismanagement in her case comes to light and she is released into the world once more, part trembly-legged fawn, part long-suppressed wolverine.

I’m sure there are those for whom getting out of prison is a whole, like, Beethoven’s Ninth sort of thing. Rousing, joyous, accompanied by a choir. But for me – for most of us, I’d guess – it was more like Beethoven’s Fifth. We’re too busy being taken aback the the sheer size and scope of things to do anything but lose our minds a little, like the first time you go to a grocery store and realize there’s more than one kind of Wheat Thin.

with the help of her devoted lawyer noah, jane assumes a new identity, rebeccca parker, in order to shield her from the virulent media attention. she has become a target, a pariah, and serious tabloid-bait, so she takes flight, leaving noah in the dark as she travels to the smallest of small towns in south dakota on a hunch and a half memory from the night of the murder, determined to find out the secrets of her mother’s past, what really happened that night, and if she actually was responsible.

you will occasionally roll your eyes at jane’s voice. i certainly did. she has this uncanny knack of taking the snark one or two steps too far. she will unleash something deadly funny and then just. keep. going. until the funny gets overridden by easy sarcasm and you’re like “dayyum, girl – quit while you’re ahead!”

If I’d been free to pick any name in the world, I would have gone for something diaphanous and fanciful, like Coralie or Delphine, the kind of name a grande dame gives a petit chien. Because no one – no one – daydreams about pretty names more than girls called Jane. And with good reason, you know? I mean, even our most illustrious Janes are world-class sticks-in-the-mud. Austen, Eyre, Doe? Spinster, sucker, corpse. It’s a wonder I managed as well as I did.

(Although at least Jane is reasonably dignified. When I was arrested the tabloids decided to call me Janie, and ever since everyone else has followed suit. Like I needed another reason to hate Aerosmith.)


Rebecca Parker, I decided, received her B.A. in Old Stuff About America from the University of A State That Grows Corn. Her undergraduate thesis, “Something Something Gold Rush: Something Something Nineteenth-Century,” won a departmental thesis prize. Her work has been published in impressive journals no layperson would have heard of, like Tedious Details About the Dakotas, and Undersexed Antisocial Nerds Discuss Cowboys. She has frequently presented at major conventions hosted by associations with “history” in their names. Her current research interests include pioneer somethings and American Indian something elses. Ask her about any of this and you will be so crazy bored that you would rather self-lobotomize than ask a follow-up. (But I made a few flashcards and wrote a short paper on nineteenth-century settlement patterns just in case you’re not.)

but sometimes she makes colorfully astute assessments of others, particularly when it comes to repellently predatory men

His arms were lean and muscled and covered in a thicket of tattoos he’d probably copied from a mixed-martial-arts magazine.

He smirked as he approached, and I noticed that his eyes weren’t just undressing Renee. They were recording her with night-vision video and posting it on the Internet.


Mitch’s good looks were thoroughly nouveau-riche, from his oversized dive watch to his Just for Men hair. He wore the khaki pants and polo shirt of the kind of man who’d carry your groceries out to your car before sexually assaulting you. Every time he shook someone’s hand, a part of him probably mourned the fist bump that might have been.

and i did actually laugh out loud twice while reading this book. once for something that will make no sense out of context, but also this:

I found the first police blotter

February 26, 1982

10:37 pm Caller on Tesmond Road reported that someone had rung doorbell but had not been there when the door was answered.

Well, this was pretty fucking promising.

gotta love small towns, right?

it’s a riveting story with all the best elements of psychological suspense, smalltown crime stories, and family secrets tied together by the unforgettable, occasionally irritating voice of jane. it’s not the most flawless of all mysteries – at the end there’s some “but, waits,” some unrealistic tidiness, and some character-softening that ms. flynn would never have bothered with, but it’s a genuinely propulsive page-turner and a fantastic debut.

and sometimes, it’s uncanny:

You can probably guess that I didn’t spend much time around other kids when I was growing up, but before you start to feel sorry for me, let me assure you that even if my mother hadn’t insisted, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I never understand it when parents talk about sending their kids to school to “socialize” them. Children aren’t people. They’re barely even animals. They’re just suppurating woulds of emotion inflamed by too much positive reinforcement.

You can’t be socialized by the unsocializable. That’s like asking King Kong to teach tap dance.

definitely looking forward to her next novel.

read my reviews on goodreads

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