Title: The Beautiful Daughters by Nicole Baart
Publisher: Atria Books
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
Adrienne Vogt and Harper Penny were closer than sisters, until the day a tragedy blew their seemingly idyllic world apart. Afraid that they got away with murder and unable to accept who they had lost—and what they had done—Harper and Adri exiled themselves from small-town Blackhawk, Iowa, and from each other. Adri ran thousands of miles away to Africa while Harper ventured down a more destructive path closer to home.
Now, five years later, both are convinced that nothing could ever coax them out of the worlds in which they’ve been living. But unexpected news from home soon pulls Adri and Harper back together, and the two cannot avoid facing their memories and guilt head-on. As they are pulled back into the tangle of their fractured relationships and the mystery of Piperhall, the sprawling estate where their lives first began to unravel, secrets and lies behind the tragic accident are laid bare. The former best friends are forced to come to terms with their shared past and search for the beauty in each other while mending the brokenness in themselves.
The Beautiful Daughters by Nicole Baart is a complex and compelling novel about betrayal, friendship and redemption. This touching story is an incredible journey of healing and forgiveness that is poignant and ultimately, freeing, for the two main protagonists.
After the death of her fiancé, David, five years earlier, Adrienne “Adri” Vogt fled from her small hometown of Blackhawk, Iowa for a nursing job in West Africa. She has avoided thinking about the series of events that led to his untimely death but when David’s mother passes away and appoints Adri as the executor of her estate, Adri is forced to return home where she not only confronts the ghosts of her pasts, but eventually reunites with her best friend, Harper Penny. Harper also left Blackhawk and found herself on an increasingly self-destructive path that culminates in an abusive relationship that she finally finds the strength and courage to leave after Adri impulsively reaches out to her. Adri and Harper’s reunion is guarded as both avoid discussing their heartbreaking history until a near tragedy finally forces both women to confront the past that has defined and, nearly destroyed, them for so long.
Adri and Harper’s unlikely friendship begins in college and for four years, they, along with David, Adri’s twin brother Will and Will’s friend, Jackson, were inseparable. The Five (as they called themselves) enjoyed lavish get togethers at David’s family estate but their close bond begins to feel the strain after David and Adri’s engagement. Both women find themselves keeping secrets that prominently center around David and when Harper convinces The Five to go on one last vacation together following graduation, the trip ends with David’s death. The mystery surrounding the circumstances of his death is one of the driving forces of the novel while the impact of his death on Adri and Harper is just as riveting.
Neither women can forgive themselves for their perceived roles in David’s death but they deal with their guilt in very different ways. Adri isolates herself from her friends and family by taking the job in West Africa while Harper falls into dead end jobs and living paycheck to paycheck. Adri’s self-imposed exile also leaves her little opportunity to date, but just before returning home, her co-worker, Caleb, finally expresses his interest in her which she returns, but refuses to acknowledge. Harper, on the other hand, has been in a relationship for several years with a man whose manipulative behavior is taking an increasingly dark turn.
Flashbacks from both Adri and Harper’s points of view reveal the circumstances leading up their rift. Adri provides the details of their friendship in addition to her romance and subsequent engagement to David. Most of Harper’s recollections focus on David but both women recount the series of events leading up David’s death. Once they finally discuss that fateful day, will Adri and Harper finally be free of the guilt that haunts them? Will they be able to forgive themselves and each other for the mistakes of the past? Will Adri and Harper repair their fractured friendship?
The Beautiful Daughters by Nicole Baart is a character driven novel that is quite captivating. The storyline is well-developed and touches on several relevant social issues in a thought-provoking and sensitive manner. The characters are multi-dimensional and although they are flawed, they are sympathetic and engaging. It is a truly unforgettable story of healing, forgiveness and friendship that I greatly enjoyed and highly recommend.