Book Title and Author: The Nowhere Child by Christian White
Publication Date and Publisher: January 22, 2019 by Minotaur Books
Genre: Mystery, Fiction, Crime, Psychological Suspense
Pages: 384 pages
Buy on Amazon.com
Date Read: December 18, 2018 (paperback review copy)
Winner of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award, The Nowhere Child is screenwriter Christian White’s internationally bestselling debut thriller of psychological suspense about a woman uncovering devastating secrets about her family—and her very identity…
Kimberly Leamy is a photography teacher in Melbourne, Australia. Twenty-six years earlier, Sammy Went, a two-year old girl vanished from her home in Manson, Kentucky. An American accountant who contacts Kim is convinced she was that child, kidnapped just after her birthday. She cannot believe the woman who raised her, a loving social worker who died of cancer four years ago, crossed international lines to steal a toddler.
On April 3rd, 1990, Jack and Molly Went’s daughter Sammy disappeared from the inside their Kentucky home. Already estranged since the girl’s birth, the couple drifted further apart as time passed. Jack did his best to raise and protect his other daughter and son while Molly found solace in her faith. The Church of the Light Within, a Pentecostal fundamentalist group who handle poisonous snakes as part of their worship, provided that faith. Without Sammy, the Wents eventually fell apart.
Now, with proof that she and Sammy are in fact the same person, Kim travels to America to reunite with a family she never knew she had. And to solve the mystery of her abduction—a mystery that will take her deep into the dark heart of religious fanaticism where she must fight for her life against those determined to save her soul…
The Nowhere Child surprised me by being such a cleverly written, engrossing read, one that I read in less than a day because I could not put it down! But I guess it really shouldn’t have come as a surprise at how good it is since Christian White’s debut thriller is the winner of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award–obviously, he’s done something right here!
What would you do if a strange man suddenly told you that you were most likely a little girl who was kidnapped at age 2 from a small Kentucky town? I know that I’d probably be shocked at first then very reluctant to listen to anything he said just like 30-year-old photographer Kimberly Leamy is when she’s approached by an American man who has pictures of the little girl and alleges that she’s Sammy Went, the missing girl.
Yet, Stuart, the man who found her, comes back with positive DNA evidence proving Kim is Sammy…his sister who he’s been searching for decades. The news deeply shocks Kim, whose mom Carol died recently so she can’t even question her about the whys and hows of the kidnapping although her step-dad Dean confirms enough of what Stuart has told her to wipe away any doubts she might have had that this is all a mistake leaving her feeling betrayed and confused.
Kim decides to fly to Kentucky with Stuart to see if she can uncover the truth behind the secrets of her abduction, secrets that many are still desperate to keep hidden, thus putting herself in tremendous danger. Kim has no idea what she’s in store for when she returns because not everyone, even her own family, is happy to see that she’s been found!
Through alternating chapters that reveal the story of Sammy’s abduction in both the past and in the present, we’re also told the story of Sammy’s family, parents Jack and Molly, sister Emma, and brother Stuart at the time that she’s kidnapped. Learning as much as we do about the family and the multiple other plot threads surrounding them is a compelling read that leaves you constantly guessing who took Sammy!
In the town of Manson, The Church of the Light Within, a Pentecostal fundamentalist religious group, or in this case a cult, has a tremendous hold over Molly Went and much of the town while Jack has moved away from the church and its strict, too literal interpretation of Scripture to the point where snake handling, talking in tongues, and exorcisms are all accepted norms of the religion. It makes you wonder when you’re reading what part they might have played in little Sammy’s disappearance!
Just on an off note, I want to say that growing up in the mountains of East Tennesse, there were quite a few Pentecostal churches around and although I never attended one, I knew a few people who did. One especially was an old friend of my grandmother’s, and she would talk about snake handling and talking in tongues like it was just the greatest thing ever! I know my grandmother made my mom go visit that church with her when she was a teenager and my mom never got over being terrified of snakes. I can’t blame her…anyway…I found my personal knowledge and connection to actual Pentecostal congregations and their practice of snake handling made this book more dramatic!
The Nowhere Child is a wildly suspenseful and thrilling family drama that is shrewdly plotted, has a fabulous cast of characters–I rooted for Kim 100% and wanted the evil villains to die a death by snake bite, well not all of them since some bad guys are likable depending on their crimes, and is extremely well-written! I know that I’ll be reading what White reads next, and I highly recommend this one if you like your family drama dark, creepy, with just the right amount of suspense!
**Thank you Minotaur Books for an ARC copy to read in exchange for a fair and honest review.**