Sally Hepworth: Darling Girls


Sally Hepworth’s latest standalone, Darling Girls, explores what it means to be a foster child put in a very bad situation. Three foster sisters, Jessica, Norah, and Alicia grew up in an idyllic looking farmhouse in rural Australia, with the kindly seeming Miss Fairchild. However, Miss Fairchild is manipulative and overbearing, causing her “daughters” to never want to see her again when they finally escape her questionable care. All three have gone have become adults with issues stemming from their often confusing, unpleasant upbringing. But all three have also come out as very close sisters. Family.

The trio had planned to never return to their childhood home. However, when a body is found beneath the farmhouse when it’s torn down, they are politely invited back by the police. Each sister is very aware that foster kids get blamed in situations like these, but they are most worried that the finger will be pointed at Norah. She was always the most volatile, having spent time in the most terrible foster homes. Both Alicia and Jessica know Norah was also the most fiercely protective of them, too.

Alicia and Jessica are not without their issues themselves, of course. Alicia has become a social worker, helping kids like herself and struggling to form meaningful attachments. Meanwhile, Jessica is married but terribly distant from her husband and most everyone in her life. Constantly anxious, Jessica’s ordered life is slowly spiraling out of control, and she seems increasingly prepared to let it. Though returning to where they grew up is difficult, it might just help all of them get some closure.

Darling Girls has the kind of twists that keep you reading but still stays believable. This is a nearly all female, well developed cast that was overall a joy to spend time with. Miss Fairchild will also definitely keep readers engaged, because it’s truly hard to know what she will do next. I raced through this one, and I recommend it to anyone who likes a good psychological thriller. – Margaret Agnew