SHE'S NOT THERE by Joy Fielding


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A toddler disappears from a Mexican hotel room, deepening the fissures in an already fractured family.

On an anniversary trip to Mexico, San Diego couple Caroline and Hunter make a fateful decision to leave their two daughters in their resort hotel room while they have dinner with friends in the courtyard below. They take turns checking on Michelle, 5, and Samantha, 2, every 30 minutes, but sometime in the half hour before their return, Samantha goes missing from her crib. The police and the media blame the couple, particularly Caroline, since her demeanor at a press conference is too aloof. (It’s just that shock becomes her.) Over the next 15 years, Hunter, a high-powered lawyer, seeks refuge with other, successively younger women, and reporters continue to hound Caroline on every anniversary of the disappearance. After a rocky adolescence, Michelle is now a young adult with a drinking problem due to her lifelong resentment of all the attention her younger sibling, though absent, still commands. Caroline’s brother, Steve, who was the favored sibling in her own family, and her hypercritical mother, Mary, add to the complexity of Caroline’s life as a divorcée  struggling to hold on to her latest high school teaching job. (Principals have a tendency to fire her as soon as they learn of her past.) Into this morass walks Lili, a Canadian teen who believes she's Samantha—though only Mary is convinced there's a resemblance. Compounding this uncertainty is the fact that Hunter lied to the police: he was actually committing adultery when he was supposed to be checking on the children. As the family awaits a DNA test, the suspense mounts, but not as quickly as our disbelief due to several inconsistencies and improbabilities.

This time, Fielding seems to be phoning in the thrills.

Pub Date: Feb. 23rd, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-101-96687-7
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Ballantine
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 2015


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