The Perfect Daughter by D.J. Palmer (2021) Review

How far would you go to protect your child?

Why I picked up the book:

Grace, a mother of two boys, finds a little girl lost and falls in love. She believes that is the daughter she was meant to have. Years later, her dream comes true with the adoption of Penny being finalized. The Francones don’t know much about Penny’s past. Still, soon it becomes clear something traumatic must have happened. Penny starts to show indications that she suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID).

Fast forward 12 years, Grace receives the call no mother wants to hear – Penny is in police custody accused of murdering someone to whom she has connections.

This arrest turns the Francones’ lives upside down as in the search for the truth, many secrets come to light. Grace risks everything they have to provide the best lawyer to her daughter, a decision her eldest son disapproves. Grace, however, is confident her daughter has the best representation in court and best care in the state mental hospital in which she awaits trial; Dr. Mitchell McHugh seems to be the right psychiatrist for Penny.

Is Penny the killer? Does she have DID? is Grace ready for the truth?

The book through my criteria lens:

I listened to The Perfect Daughter as an audiobook, and Macmillan Audio delivered again. I listened to this book in one sitting; I simply couldn’t get enough of Dan Bittner’s and January LaVoy’s narration. Their pacing was impeccable, and I didn’t miss a full cast at all between the two of them. They brought the story to life, and each and every character had their own personality emoted through the narration.

In my humble opinion, this was an excellent plot that was executed well. It takes a certain amount of courage to have a mental disorder as the center of a story, and The Perfect Daughter could have gone wrong in so many different ways. Still, Palmer knew what he was doing and delivered a strong, entertaining, unputdownable execution that got me turning the page at the edge of my seat. I liked the care he put into Penny’s character and how beautiful Grace’s love for her was. The whole book was permeated with some excellent parent-child relationships in both its purest and most unhealthy ways. I would say those relationships were my biggest takeaway from the book. I was so happy when I got to the end of the book and saw that Palmer played fair. This was an amazingly written novel.

My personal feelings:

I will be the first to admit that I am very particular about books that depict mental disorders. I was going back and forth, trying to decide whether to read this book. Macmillan Audio producing the audiobook was the tipping point for me, and oh, my, am I ever glad I did?

D.J. Palmer completely surprised me, and I spend most of the book thinking the author was a woman (and this is a compliment). He is the first-ever male author I have read to depict DID respectfully. Obviously, he did his research, and while still using the diagnosis as the crux of his plot, he tried to educate and dispel the most harmful tropes. I keep in mind that this is a work of fiction, and liberties were taken. Still, I can honestly say that Palmer was respectful, mindful, and deliberate in his literary choices surrounding Penny’s character.

I became a fan of his narrative and already ordered another of his books, The New Husband. Palmer’s female characters were very well developed, and I particularly appreciated the epilogue. Without spoiling, I think the fact that Palmer continued to develop one of the characters at the end and gave us insight into their motivation was the cherry on top. I hope it means we will see that person make an appearance in future books, as they were brilliant.

Enjoyability     10

Characters       8

Ambience        8

Fairness          10

Plot              10   

Execution        10

My total rating: 4.66


Disclaimer: I first read it as an ARC. In exchange for an honest review, I am thankful to Macmillan Audio, NetGalley and D. J. Palmer for providing me with a copy of The Perfect Daughter.

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