(The Lost Daughter is also known as The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes and A Beautiful Lie)
The Lost Daughter is one of my mum’s favourite books. She used to ask me every few weeks, ‘Have you read it yet? When are you going to read it? READ IT!’ and so I promised to read it before the end of the year – and it sucked me into 1977 straight away.
You can imagine my surprise when it began almost like a young adult novel. CeeCee Wilkes is sixteen years old, parentless, working in a coffee shop in order to pay rent for the one bedroom apartment she shares with a friend. She’s hard at work when she meets charming 22-year-old Tim Gleason, who falls for her beautiful hair and unconscious generosity. 20 years later, CeeCee Wilkes – now known as Eve Elliot – is speaking out on national news, protesting his innocence. You see, Timothy Gleason has been charged with the murder of young, pregnant Genevieve Russell. Genevieve’s remains have been discovered yet there’s no sign of the unborn baby. But CeeCee knows where she is – because she raised her as her own.
The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes is the original title for the book, describing it perfectly. After Tim persuades CeeCee to help with the kidnapping of Genevieve Russell, the governor’s wife, she is encouraged to take up a new identity, leave her old life behind, and learn how to grow up quickly. The Lost Daughter, I will admit, is a little crazy. I cannot quite imagine it happening, but it’s completely gripping nonetheless. I love these sort of books: contemporary, psychological, suspenseful. I always see ‘If you like Jodi Picoult, try… Diane Chamberlain’ and I can completely see why, although their styles are very different.
Jodi Picoult and Diane Chamberlain are both superb at taking a controversial, human issue and wrapping it up in suspense and mystery. The Lost Daughter made me think a lot about the death penalty – of which Tim is sentenced to – because it was abolished in the UK in 1969, yet is still an occurrence in the USA. It’s cliché to say it, but I couldn’t put The Lost Daughter down. I hadn’t read a book for a while that made me feel like ‘just one more chapter and then I’ll go to sleep’, even though it was 2am. And because it’s a contemporary, realistic (to some extent!) novel, you become so wrapped up in the characters’ everyday lives that you begin to understand what could make someone make such a drastic decision. CeeCee participated in the kidnapping of a young woman who dies. In a panic, she steals the newly born daughter, leaving Genevieve’s family grieving. You would think that CeeCee would be a completely unlikable character, yet after a while, her poor decisions start to make sense…
If The Lost Daughter is anything to go by, I definitely want to read the rest of Diane Chamberlain’s novels. I’ve slowly been collecting them over the last two years and I already have seven. Bring on the psychological drama!
Published: 1st November 2010 (US) 31st January 2011 (UK)