Shelf Awareness Book Talk: *The Daughter She Used to Be*, by Rosalind Noonan

The Daughter She Used to Be
Rosalind Noonan
Kensington (2011), Paperback original (ISBN 0758241682 / 9780758241689)
Fiction, 352 pages

Portions of this review were originally published in Shelf Awareness for Readers (11/4/11), which supplied an Advance Reader Copy (furnished by the publisher) and payment. All opinions expressed are my own.


The blood of the Sullivan family has run NYPD blue for two generations. Those who didn’t become cops married them or, in the case of youngest daughter Bernadette, went to law school. When patriarch James “Sully” Sullivan reached mandatory retirement age, he opened a coffee shop just across the street from his old precinct house, and the Sullivans’ Queens home continues to be filled with police officers and police talk.

That talk comes home in a very different way when an unfortunate encounter and a case of mistaken identity provoke a mentally fragile ex-convict – released from prison just days earlier – to a shooting spree in Sully’s coffee shop, killing three police officers. In the aftermath, Bernadette comes to realize that her ideas about justice may not be the same as those of the rest of her family, and that leads her to reconsider both her career and her relationship choices.

Rosalind Noonan’s The Daughter She Used to Be is an engrossing family saga and a suspenseful legal thriller. Noonan covers a lot of narrative ground, with a large cast of characters whose situations involve some morally complex issues – justice, racism, abortion, grief – as well as some knotty family dynamics. There’s so much going on that some threads aren’t really followed through, but Sully and Bernadette’s shifting father/daughter relationship remains at the core of the story. This novel would fuel some great book-club discussion, and facilitates that with a helpful readers’ guide.

From the publisher: The daughter of a career cop, Bernadette Sullivan grew up with blue uniforms hanging in the laundry room and cops laughing around the dinner table. Her brothers joined New York’s finest, her sister married a cop, and Bernie is an assistant District Attorney. Collaring criminals, putting them away–it’s what they do. And though lately Bernie feels a growing desire for a family of her own, she’s never questioned her choices. Then a shooter targets a local coffee shop, and tragedy strikes the Sullivan family. 

Anger follows grief–and Bernie realizes that her father’s idea of retribution is very different from her own. All her life, she’s inhabited a clear-cut world of right and wrong, of morality and corruption. As Bernie struggles to protect the people she loves, she must also decide what it means to see justice served. And in her darkest hour, she will find out just what it means to be her father’s daughter.


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