The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter is a psychological crime thriller that I picked up after one of my favourite BookTubers recommended it on her channel, and also because a few bloggers that I admire vouched for the quality of the author’s works. Upon finishing this book, my very first one by Slaughter, all I can is WOW.
The Good Daughter revolves around a woman in her early forties named Charlotte, or Charlie. She is a lawyer with a shit ton of emotional baggage, however she wasn’t always such a hot mess. Twenty-eight years ago, she was a budding adolescent with delightful curiosity and blooming intelligence. She had an older sister, a brilliant scientist for a mother, and a criminal defence attorney for a father. However, one dark evening, a couple of people entered her home in what would become the most traumatising and tragic event in Charlie’s life. Now, in the present, as she struggles to move forward with her own problems, the occurrence of a terrible act of violence in her small town, not only rocks everyone living in it, but drudges up Charlie’s horrid past in ways she never dreamt possible.
Dude, where do I even fucking begin with this review? It totally blew my mind in the best ways—and some really fucked-up ways—possible. From the characters to the jaw-dropping sequence of events, to the compiling array of emotions, and finally the suspense! Oh my bleeding hell, the suspense was extraordinary.
One of the reasons that I read psychological thrillers is due to the examination of people during the intensely chaotic and messed-up situations that take place in the stories. The Good Daughter is one of those few gems that gets this exploration of human emotion, mind, and nature down so well as to be breath-takingly disconcerting and flawless. What Charlie and her family go through is nothing short of dehumanising and godawfully brutal. There really is no other way to describe that. When you undergo such severe forms of trauma, that stuff sticks to your bones and your organs like a deep, dark shadow, oozing any ounce of life it can out of you. We see that with Charlie in the decisions that she makes in her life, both professionally and personally.
No matter how hard you try, you cannot erase the crap that has been done to you. Your mind and your heart won’t allow it. There are certain triggers that yank everything back to the surface and it’s as if you have to start healing from the very beginning all over again. The way that Slaughter writes this particular part of coping with—or running away from—trauma is hauntingly real and precise. There were times where I could feel Charlie’s anxiety and guilt and grief so tangibly that my gut would hurt from empathy. When she sits down and cries with every ounce of her being, I could feel my own body convulsing in ways that would only happen if I were crying in the same manner. To be able to become so emotionally and mentally invested in a character like that whilst reading utterly astounds me. I don’t think I have felt this in quite a long fucking time, and even though it was immensely challenging during some parts, given the triggers I experienced myself, it was amazing.
This intimate analysis of trauma isn’t limited to Charlie, but to a few others as well, such as her father. While we don’t see or hear from him much, we do get to understand his pain and his personal grief in other ways that are a bit more intellective. He shows us the other side of tragedy, where you aren’t allowed to break because there are people depending on you for their own survival. Aside from Charlie’s father, there are two other characters (I won’t name them because that would be a major spoiler!) who also have their own version of living with trauma. Each one is distinct and each one helps the reader understand that there is no right or wrong way to process grief, guilt, excruciating agony, and much more. It is all dependent on the individual. Some are going to more harmful than others, but it’s a matter of personal feelings and the responses created in the aftermath when those feelings are pushed to the brink. In this sense, that psychological element of the narrative is, as I’ve mentioned, fucking flawless.
Other things that I found to be immensely fascinating while reading include the conservative beliefs of small towns that are still alive today and just how dreadfully harmful they are, especially when it involves youth, and where victim blaming (particularly when the victim is a woman) is concerned. The amount of rage that fuelled my veins due to the blatant ignorance that was displayed by these people is indescribable. I believe my reaction is due to the fact that there are many people who hold such offensive and dehumanising beliefs today with such vivacious strength and it makes me nauseous as all hell. Nevertheless, it’s another characteristic of The Good Daughter that is real and authentic and marvellously written.
Another thing to include is the fact that crimes can be committed by anyone for any reason at all. No one is ever truly immune to turning into a monster or villain. Some are far more malevolent than others, but the capacity for it resides within every individual. This specific aspect was remarkably contemplative for me and it led to quite a few in-depth discussion between me and Sir Besty. No matter how wholesome someone is, or you believe that they are, the potential to inflict or incite harm lies within our hearts. The thought is positively terrifying to me, frankly speaking. Even so, when used in The Good Daughter it creates one of the best non-diverse novels that I’ve read in years. Because of this theme specifically, my guess to the culprit(s) was ever-changing and constantly shifting. When the big reveal did occur, my jaw hit the floor with total shock. I have not encountered a book in about five or six years where I could not get a single feeling for the villain or antagonist. I was shook as fuck.
The progression is fast-paced as the narrative is continuously moving forward in one realm or another. I did read it slower than my normal reading pace because in addition to being so fluid, it’s intricately descriptive and meticulously rendered. The book requires you to concentrate on little details that have been shared to create connections between two separate events, as well as the threads that tie all the characters together. In this sense, the story is highly dimensional and layered with tons of emotion and intrigue.
The writing is beautiful. Each chapter is written as to be narrated by the specific individual whose perspective is being shown in the corresponding chapter. The shift in dialogue and mannerisms and tone all respect the narrator’s unique persona. This kept the book from getting boring or feeling too bland or monotonous, which I greatly appreciated. It also worked quite wonderfully as a narrative device given all of the themes and examinations that take place in the book as a whole.
If there is anything that I could bring up that I feel would be off-putting to readers it is the repetition of a certain event. This event is shared with the reader at different points through the book, and each time it is slightly different than the time before it, mostly due to the person who is recalling the event. Since so many details are similar with ever rendition, it can form a bit of tedium that may make you want to skip past it. Don’t. Yes, it does get tiresome, but the differences are extremely vital to get the whole picture of what’s going on, so push on through.
I feel like I could keep talking about The Good Daughter, but if I did that then there would be no point in you picking it up! If you are like me and have never heard of Karin Slaughter, or have heard of her but never read her stuff, I highly recommend you read The Good Daughter at the very least. It is a brilliantly phenomenal psychological crime thriller. With that being said, I will mention that the book won’t be for every reader as there are so many fucking triggers in it. I knew that going into it and I still had a difficult time stomaching some of the shit that happens in here. All in all, it’s spectacularly written, fabulously thought-provoking and intelligent, and stunningly evocative in every way possible.
4.75 gunshots outta 5.
Trigger Warnings: Graphic language. Graphic violence. Graphic rape. Graphic child abuse, physical & sexual. Difficult subjects surrounding miscarriage, loss & grief, infidelity, & bullying.