Sarah Walker is a successful business owner, still recovering from a failed relationship, but seemingly healthy in all respects. While on a business trip, she witnesses a disturbing scene between a mother and her young daughter at an airport. It’s clear the mother is frazzled but not enough to excuse her treatment of the little girl in the red dress, hair bow and shoes. Not long after, Sarah discovers the little girl again during a trip to a Montessori school to pitch business and follows her home, just to make certain her life is better than what she first witnessed. Unfortunately, it’s not and Sarah and 5-year old Emma both make a decision that permanently alters their lives and that of many others.
I began this story knowing that Sarah takes Emma but couldn’t believe there would be any circumstances where I would condone her actions. Incredibly, I found myself rooting for Sarah and Emma but also felt compassion for Amy, Emma’s mother, despite her horrible parenting. There are a host of issues presented in this story, none of them explored in any real depth but enough to stimulate thought provoking inquiry. You see society passing harsher judgment on the mothers in this story while the enabling fathers seem to get a pass. The story provides quite a bit of background on both Sarah and Amy, providing some insights and contrasts into and between the two women.
This was a Traveling Friends group book selection that generated a robust discussion, raising some provocative points of view I hadn’t considered. One dealt with how tough women are on other women as parents, maybe reflecting their own insecurities. While the ending left a lot of dangling resolutions, I enjoyed the book for challenging paradigms about parenting, child abductions and female/male stereotypes. It doesn’t provide a lot of answers but it made me think and left me to my imagination about the story’s outcome.
(I received an advance copy from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review)