Anna Snoekstra

Only Daughter

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Only Daughter Summary

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Only Daughter (2016), a psychological thriller by Anna Snoekstra, tells the story of a woman who claims to be a girl who went missing many years ago, and who has now made it back to her family. The book received praise from critics upon its publication for its careful storytelling and original plot. Before turning to novel writing, Snoekstra wrote various short stories and short film scripts, many of which are award-winning. Her scripts have been screened around the world at independent film festivals. Only Daughter is her debut novel.

The book centers on Rebecca Winter. Her friends and family call her Bec. Back in 2003, when Bec is sixteen, she disappears without a trace. Before her disappearance, she is living a normal life. She loves a boy who is too old for her, she gets into trouble with her best friend, and she has a part-time job at McDonald’s. Only those close to Bec know that strange things have been happening to her.

Bec blacks out frequently, and she can never remember what she’s doing before an episode. She wakes up at night with bloodstains on her sheets and she has no idea how they got there. Suffering from horrible dreams, she always feels like something awful is about to happen. Most worryingly, she feels that someone is watching her. Not wanting to worry her friends or family, Bec only tells them what she must. However, for all Bec knows that something is wrong with her, she has no idea that someone is going to kidnap her.

One day, in 2014, a homeless woman is arrested. This woman claims to be Bec. While teenage Bec narrates one part of the book, this woman narrates the other. It is immediately obvious that there is something suspicious about her, despite the claims she is making. She is posing as Bec solely to avoid a jail sentence; she manipulates everyone whom she meets.

Imposter Bec spends her time studying other people. She bases what she says and how she acts on the responses she gets from those around her. Nothing about Imposter Bec is real. However, despite the family’s initial misgivings, they accept that she is the real Bec and welcome her back home.

Now, all Imposter Bec must do is keep up the pretense. Before long, Imposter Bec’s family relaxes around her. No one asks her too many questions, and everyone is relieved to have her back home. The police don’t seem too keen on making further inquiries. They are only interested in closing a cold case.

From Bec’s family and friends, Imposter Bec discovers that odd things happened to Bec before she went missing. She learns about the blackouts and confusion, and the strange nightmares. It is easy for Imposter Bec to say that she doesn’t remember these episodes because she was confused at the time. Everyone believes her when she says she is feeling better now. She says that she is too scared to talk about what happened to her when she went missing; everyone accepts this explanation, too.

The real Bec always suspected that her house was haunted. She thought that was why bad things, such as the blackouts, always happened to her in the house. Imposter Bec thinks that this is nonsense, but she can’t help wondering if she made a bad decision the day that she decided to assume Bec’s identity. She wonders if the real Bec is as sweet, innocent, and sympathetic as everyone says she was before she went missing.

Real Bec has two younger brothers—twins who are old enough to remember Bec before she went missing. They’re not as convinced by Imposter Bec as the rest of the family. They think she seems too different. Imposter Bec knows that they will be trouble, but she can simply blame their overactive imaginations. Imposter Bec, right now, is more interested in learning all she can about the real Bec.

Soon, Imposter Bec experiences the same disturbances as the real Bec. She finds unexplained bloodstains and suffers night terrors. Now, she suspects that the real Bec was right and that the house is haunted. However, the truth is more terrifying, as Imposter Bec is about to find out. Imposter Bec isn’t the most dangerous member of the family, after all. The young brothers are. It turns out that these young boys are psychopaths who are likely to grow into adult serial killers. They conducted violent animal sacrifices and gaslit the real Bec into thinking things that weren’t true. They made her doubt herself until she thought she was going crazy. Imposter Bec realizes that perhaps the real Bec isn’t missing after all—maybe she left.

Imposter Bec doesn’t know what to do when she finds out the truth about the boys. She can’t go to the police, because then they’ll know she’s been lying, but she can’t stay in this terrifying home, either. She understands that the real Bec felt powerless to stop her brothers from doing evil things because she was only a teenager, but Imposter Bec is an adult—she doesn’t plan to hang around much longer.

The truth, however, is eventually revealed, and Imposter Bec leaves. She is standing at a railway station in Perth, Australia, when she sees a girl who looks startlingly familiar. The real Bec is still alive; she is never going home again because she knows her brothers will kill her one day.