“SCHOOLGIRL MISSING, the ticker reads, and the camera cuts to a girl’s face. Blonde hair waterfalling over her shoulders, serious eyes, lips a little parted like she’s about to speak. That’s when I realize I’ve been holding my breath, because the gasp when I inhale almost chokes me.”
Sadie Kelly has lost her job. Until last month, she was a teacher at Horton College – the same high school she went to ten years ago along with her best friend, Fiona. But Fiona died in an accident on their graduation night, in circumstances Sadie’s spent the last ten years trying to forget, and since then nothing’s been the same.
Now Sadie’s jobless and living with Fiona’s mother Jan, the woman who’s watched over Sadie since she was a little girl, and the one person Sadie would do anything to protect. But when Sadie hears that Horton schoolgirl Devon Hundley has gone missing, everything changes. Devon is the daughter of Philip Hundley – wealthy school donor, local doctor, and a man Sadie knows all too well. And now Sadie can’t help remembering the last time she saw Devon – and heard her whisper something Sadie’s been trying ever since to forget…
THE SILENT DAUGHTER is a gripping page-turner of family secrets and buried lies, for fans of Kerry Lonsdale, Diane Chamberlain, and Liane Moriarty.
Targeted Age Group:: 25-75
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I am a huge fan of psychological suspense fiction and women's fiction about complex characters – I love authors like Lisa Jewell, Liane Moriarty, and Catherine Ryan Hyde. Ever since I was a kid I was addicted to boarding school stories and later, "gothic" stories like Jane Eyre. So I really wanted to write something that brought all these loves together.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I am an only child but when I was growing up, I really wanted a sister. I tried imagining what it would be like for Sadie, the main character in this novel and only child, to have a "sister" come into her life, who later on was taken away from her.
The wind has a moan in it, and a mournful shiver shakes the trees. I hate October.
The cemetery is almost empty today, even emptier than usual. It’s just me, Jan, and up in the grey sky a bird of prey making its wide circles. Fiona would have been able to tell us what kind of bird. She could point to any tree or bird and say that’s a whatever-it-is, even though she grew up just like I did in a little Connecticut town. Fiona was passionate about nature for some reason, she even had a bird almanac beside her bed. And she had one of the best memories I’ve ever seen. That was in the old days, when we were still kids. Before she grew up, and replaced birds with other things. More dangerous things.
The bird overhead wheels and drops. I wonder what it’s spotted. Rabbit? Squirrel? There’s no point running, little creature. Nowhere to hide now. Life’s not fair: sometimes the cards just aren’t stacked in your favor. We should know by now, it’s always the more powerful animals that win.
I lower my gaze to the grey headstone before us:
The familiar nausea churns in my stomach. Beside me, Jan kneels down and starts pulling small weeds from the headstone. The weeds are only ever small ones, because Jan comes here regularly. She watches over this little patch of earth.
Satisfied with her weeding, Jan places the little clump of pink freesias underneath the stone. She’s always calm and matter-of-fact when we visit her daughter’s grave, no tears. She just sees to the weeds and clucks her tongue whenever there are signs of youths drinking in the cemetery, empty cans or cigarette butts. She treats it like a living room that needs cleaning but it’s hard to know what she really feels – how much she’s recovered or ever will recover from the loss. Ten years ago now, which is hard to believe. It’s the one thing – okay, one of the two things – that I will never talk to Jan about. I just don’t have the words. And if I’m honest I probably don’t want to know what exactly she feels now. I can’t bear the guilt.
‘Okay love, we’ll be off now.’
I don’t know if it’s me or Fiona she’s talking to. The wind whips around her words, moving across the grass and shaking the spruce trees by the cemetery wall. Jan plants her hands on her thighs and levers herself back up from the ground. We link arms and I steer us back towards the parking lot.
‘You mustn’t worry about the job thing, Sadie,’ Jan says. ‘You know you can stay with me for as long as you like.’
‘I know,’ I say, and give her arm a squeeze through the raincoat.
‘Everybody needs a break sometimes,’ she goes on. ‘It’s nothing to be ashamed of.’
A "break" is a nice way to put it. She’s conveniently leaving out how I was asked to leave Horton College, and how I’ve been having periodic panic attacks since arriving back, jobless, to Milham. It’s frankly embarrassing. Jan’s house has always been a second home to me though. As for my actual home, Mom’s house is only a three-minute drive from Jan’s, but that door is closed to me these days, for reasons I don't want to think about right now.
‘I sometimes think that -’ Jan pauses. I turn around, noticing the long pause. She hesitates, and continues.
‘I sometimes think it was my fault, Sadie.’
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