Jane Jenkins was an “it girl” in LA until she was arrested for the murder of her mother. Found at the crime scene, Jane was highly uncooperative with police, leading her to be tried for the crime and sent to jail.
Though she was found at the scene, Jane remembers nothing about how her mother died, and has never been sure whether she is actually guilty or innocent. She’s spent the past ten years locked up over a murder she may not have even committed, but is now being released due to the mishandling of DNA evidence by the police.
With a media frenzy surrounding her release, Jane takes an assumed identity and goes into hiding. She agrees to her lawyer’s plan to send her to Wisconsin, but rather than following through, hops off of the train and makes her way to a small town she thinks her mother may have connections to, in order to unlock the mystery of what really happened.
Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little is a fascinating book that’s hard to put down because there are so many potential outcomes, and so many questions as to how Jane’s story will play out. Will Trace, the obsessive blogger convinced of Jane’s guilt, find her? If he does, will he harm her? Did Jane actually kill her mother? If not, who did? All of these questions (and more) are resolved by the book’s twisted end.
Jane is a character that most readers will have a hard time liking. Whether or not she actually killed her mother, she’s still a criminal and a liar. She steals, she manipulates. She’s a typical Hollywood “mean girl,” shallow and judgmental. She’s had a troubled life, and her outlook on the world is bleak.
But for some reason, I still found myself rooting for her. I wanted her to be innocent, and to find the truth. She is very flawed, but I couldn’t help sympathizing with her, even in her ugliest moments. Little does a fantastic job of helping the reader understand why Jane acts the way she does, and her complicated relationship with her mother plays a large part in that.
So, could it be a movie? Yes, I think it could make a great one with the right cast. There are a lot of interesting side characters, many of whom are nearly as unlikable as Jane — so there’s opportunity to employ an ensemble of great character actors and lesser-knowns.
There is no hero in Dear Daughter, no one for the reader/viewer to latch on to… so unless you’re interested in stories with “bad” protagonists, you won’t enjoy this one! I don’t see this being a problem should the film be adapted, since we’ve seen a bit of a rise in bleak tales and unlikable/untrustworthy characters with the success of films like Gone Girl and Nightcrawler.