Book Review: The Dream Daughter By Diane Chamberlain

This review contains spoilers. She Speaks Up and St Martin Press sent me an ARC complimentary copy of The Dream Daughter. I am pleased that I received this book because I can give an unbiased review. I have read nothing by Diane Chamberlain. I read the snippet about this book that convinced me it would be a bestseller and I had to read it.

I liked this book and I would stay up into the wee hours reading it. Most books need a suspension of disbelief. The Dream Daughter pushed those boundaries for me, which is saying something because I read plenty of post apocalyptic fiction. The Dream Daughter draws you in, but has the potential to push a few buttons.

Chamberlin used a few historical events and a sensitive topic that some may not agree with. The Dream Daughter is about Carly who lives in 1970. She has lost her husband in the Vietnam War and the child she is pregnant with is all she has left of him. Late in her pregnancy she learns that her child will be born with a heart defect that will be fatal. Suspension of disbelief comes along very early because of a terse introduction to Carly our protagonist and her brother-in-law Hunter. 

The story lacks a buildup or back story to support the trust between the two. Carly meets Hunter at work where she is a physical therapist.

Everyone suspects Hunter attempted suicide and is weary of him. In moments Carly gets Hunter to talk. In the next chapter it jumps to a few years later where Hunter and Patti, Carly’s older sister, are a married couple. After another time jump, Carly is a pregnant widow. The series of events move too fast. 

We know little about Joe, Carly’s husband or the other characters. You must gather from the first few chapters that Carly, Hunter, Patti, and Joe were close and trusting. That Hunter has convinced everyone he is genuine so much so he is now an integral part of the family.

I had a hard time immersing myself in the book because the narrative exposition was succinct. In most cases being succinct is great. Here we needed more than a brief back story. Suspension of disbelief requires knowing enough about the characters to perceive plausibility. It took over 150 pages to become immersed in the book because of this. Now when I reviewed How to Walk Away a few months ago, I got into that book because it starts with the plane crash. That action catches your attention enough to keep you reading. This book doesn’t start that way. 

The Dream Daughter starts with Carly meeting Hunter, then jumps to the future where he’s her brother-in-law. Now Carly has known Hunter for years and she trusts him. What happened in those years matters. The problem here for me is Hunter expects Carly to trust him enough to jump when he says how high. Hunter is from the future and can help Carly travel through time. Hunter thinks Carly can time travel and save her baby. The method of time travel is laughable. 

As a child of the 80s/90s, time travel is not the weirdest concept. I grew up with the Back to the Future movies. There are plenty of movies and books that involve time travel. Yet, this is an unfamiliar plot device in most chick lit. It’s simple how the characters in this book time travel. Someone makes calculations. Then you jump from a great height when you know the portal will be open. That seems too simple doesn’t it? You could almost learn how to do it yourself. It’s more believable than a Delorean but not Quantum Leap with Scott Bakula. I struggled with this time travel method as it seemed ridiculous. Time travel is complex, and this made time travel seem generic.

Chamberlain used two dark and sensitive events in American history as part of her plot. Forty-three years has passed since the Vietnam War. Vietnam today is not a sensitive subject for most. The main issue for me is the use of 9/11 in the plot. I find the use of 9/11 in the plot somewhat distasteful. For me it is still too soon. I disliked the use and a different twist could work. Yet, it did not bother me enough to where I disliked the book for that alone.

Carly’s decision to leave the future angered me the most. Carly made many selfless decisions in this book and always chose what was best for her child. At one point Carly has to leave her baby. Carly thinks she can return to retrieve her baby. That causes Carly to land in the wrong year and her baby is 12 and adopted by loving and capable parents. Her child has a good life. Carly’s actions seemed out of character because she always put the welfare of her child first.
The story became uncomfortable for me. At a certain point Carly did things that made me cringe. Carly time travels to have surgery to save her child then her altruistic nature changes. She is selfish and somewhat thoughtless. This change was hard to believe.

Adoption is a sensitive topic. Carly arrives in a future where her child has only known the family she lives with now. Her daughter is thriving, and to try to change that is wrong. I cannot believe Carly went from a selfless self sacrificing mother, to one who puts her own needs first. Carly’s obsession with inserting herself into her daughter’s life is unshakeable, until the realization Joe is not dead. Suddenly she abandons her plans and flees to the past, traumatizing her daughter. That did not feel organic after the extremes Carly had gone to. 

Perhaps realizing someone needed her and her child was fine caused Carly to change her mind. That is not the feeling I got. In fact, this made me take a star off my review. I will give a book 5 stars if I lose time reading. Any book that engages me and provides hours entertainment is a good book. The Dream Daughter definitely entertained me. There were a few flaws that made The Dream Daughter less enjoyable for me. The Dream Daughter was a good book. It was not great. Carly’s behavior at the end contradicts the character we met. 

Another issue with the writing is when Hunter tells Patti he is a time traveler and he sent Carly to the future. Patti’s behavior is disconcerting.

Imagine your husband tells you he’s a time traveler. That he sent your sister ahead to get experimental surgery. You’re either going to assume he killed your sister and that he’s crazy or you will accept he has told you the truth. Not having a back story did not help me understand Patti’s reaction. Patti treats Hunter poorly and then accuses him of killing Carly at one point. Yet Patti lived with him and let them co-parent their child together. Either you trust your husband or not. If you think he hurt your sister, you do not sit there and do nothing. Patti would have been a lot more enjoyable and believable if she was a supportive wife, or tried having her husband arrested. Patti was a selfish and rather self-involved character a few times. I did not care for Patti.

The Dream Daughter is entertaining. It took a few hours of reading to immerse myself in the book for me. Because I have never read Diane Chamberlain, I don’t know if this is typical for her to jump into the story.

I don’t want to seem critical. I did like the book. Once you get past the time travel method, the book becomes more enjoyable. I gave The Dream daughter four out of five stars on Goodreads. The Dream Daughter will definitely be on the bestsellers list this October. I would recommend reading it.

Click here to read my review of How To Walk Away.

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