Jane Harris lives in a perfect home in a perfect area of Southern California with her perfect family and she herself is a perfect control freak.
About a year before the novel begins, her oldest daughter, Mary, was killed in an accident, falling off a cliff at a park set by the ocean. Since than Jane has not ventured outside of her home, remaining in a miasma with the death on her mind. The story opens with her husband, other daughter and herself preparing to attend a memorial service for Mary planned and organized by her husband and inviting many people living in the area.
The story is told in first person only with Jane’s thoughts, reactions and comments bringing the reader a magnificent portrait of the ensuing events through the mind of a woman who must remain in control at all costs. She takes the position that her attitudes and only her attitudes must take precedence and finds fault with anyone attempting to thwart her ideas. Getting ready to attend the memorial she preens and preps herself to take center stage at the event and give a heartfelt speech about herself and her feelings for her deceased daughter. Her pride takes a blow when it is her husband that makes that speech and she is not invited to speak.
The next event that must be faced is the high school graduation of her other daughter, Betsy. While waiting for this event, Jane brings us her views on several happenings that have been taking place around her. First, her husband is working a great deal of hours at his office and is rarely home. Then her daughter Betsy is dating someone that Jane feels is not worthy of her family’s acceptance.
Rouda’s portrait of Jane and the way she deals with the world as she sees it is a fascinating adventure into the mindset of a woman that must
retain control of everything she takes part in. The characterization of her is an adventure into the thoughts and feelings of someone that is actually quite a bit off normal. This does nothing to detract from the novel, but is the factor that makes it a mesmerizing read.
5/19 Paul Lane
THE FAVORITE DAUGHTER by Kaira Rouda. Graydon House; Original edition (May 21, 2019). ISBN 978-1525835148. 368p.