Book Review: The Nowhere Child by Christian White


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
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Date Read: December 18, 2018 (paperback review copy)

4 Stars

Goodreads Synopsis:

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…

My Thoughts:

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.**

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39 thoughts on “Book Review: The Nowhere Child by Christian White

    1. Thanks! It’s really good…lots of snakes though in one especially suspenseful part. So be prepared to maybe skim that part! Even I who like snakes, my boys have had 2 boas as pets over the years that liked me for some reason, got the heebie jeebies! Enjoy it! 💕

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Thus was a fabulous review Stephanie, I have got to see if I can get this book.
    Snakes… Hmmm… That I have got to think about.. Since it is fictional, I think I will be okay.. 😂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I had to Google Pentecostal and snake handling. That’s really interesting. I am Pentecostal but we don’t have that here. Terrified of snakes but intrigued by the premise of this one. Fantastic review.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Isn’t the snake handling wild? I’m not afraid of snakes, but they handle venomous ones, so that would be a no! That’s interesting that you don’t have that there, but I do think from what I know from growing up in the south that the snake handling is mainly southern, us. It is an intriguing premise! Thanks so much!


    1. Thanks Renee, it really did. I think the religious aspect really pulled me in since it was something that I was so familiar with (although the book was very cultist and the people I knew were not). I hope it doesn’t disappoint.


  3. Wow, so interesting that the snake part does happen in some churches!!! I’m terrified of snakes so probably not a good church for me to try 😂 There’s so many books this year about children with unclear parentage. What a fascinating theme! It makes me wonder how much it matters? Would I want to know if I came from somewhere else? Would it influence my memories of a happy childhood? Great review, Stephanie! I’ll be reading this soon!

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    1. Isn’t that wild? I think, at least from what I know growing up in the south, that it’s mainly a southern thing with the Pentecostals , but I could be wrong. No, not a good church for you to try at all…plus they won’t let women wear pants, make-up, or cut or dye their hair, so that would be a no-no for me right there! I live for my lipstick and every once and a while highlights, LOL. There are, but I think this is the first one that I’ve read! In this book, I’m not sure she was better off finding out, lol. Though she probably was. It is a good question though. And I think the memories would have a lot to do with the age you were taken since childhood amnesia would come in to play. It’s an interesting topic! I used to be terrified when I was little of being kidnapped; so strange looking back now! Thank you!! I hope you enjoy it! 🙂 xx


    1. Thanks, Jen!! I’m so glad that you’re enjoying it too! It was very good! I know, right! I can’t imagine attending church and having to handle snakes even though I’m not at all afraid of them-we’ve had pet ones over the years (boys…). But venomous ones put a different spin on things! My mom and I might not get along, but I hate that she had that experience. Thanks! You too!! ♥

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    1. Thanks Nicole! It’s really good…there’s mostly mention of snakes except in one graphic part that even had me freaking and I actually like snakes, but it can be skimmed if you want to read it!!

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  4. Dark & creepy, sounds like my cuppa tea. The fact you read this in under a day tells me it’s a good read! And snake handling & talking in tongues.. I had no idea about the links to Pentecostal churches. Will make a note of this as it’s something my folks my quite enjoy reading too! Great review as always Steph 🙂
    Caz xx

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    1. Thanks, Caz! It really was good! It just kept me glued to the pages. And if you like dark and creepy, then this book is it! Oh yeah, the snake handling and talking in tongues is such a big thing in the Pentecostal churches and people do die from it but they think it’s God’s will. From what I know, at least from growing up and living my entire life in the south, it’s predominately down here. And I know that some Baptist denominations do it as well…I hope you and your folks enjoy if they read it!! xx 🙂

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    1. Thank you, Paul! I appreciate the compliment! It’s the English Literature professor in me that is well organized, lol. You should see me putting a review together because I edit and revise like I’m writing (or grading) an essay, lol. Thanks again!! 😊

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      1. Yes… I try to edit and edit (even to the extent of reading my reviews out loud to myself), but I end up missing something. And my students are all too happy to point those out if they see them!

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      2. It’s a neverending struggle for me–the editing and the entire writing process. I’ve been working on the same two reviews for over 2 weeks, lol. If I didn’t have writer’s block or whatever it is, I could review more often. But it is what it is. You should have seen me writing an over 300 page dissertation; I think it scarred me for life! Haha! Yes, I teach all my classes online on Blackboard now, and I’m always afraid that I’ll have made a grammar, spelling, or punctuation mistake, so I reread everything over and over, and I’ve had students email me to point out a mistake. It’s such a lovely feeling!

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      3. I wish I could keep mine short, lol. I’ve been able to do that with mini reviews but alas, I have too much to say! I’ve gotten better though…most of the time! Part of the problem is that I want to move on to my next book so badly that I don’t immediately review anything and end up with a backlog of books that need to be reviewed (I have 8 right now!!), so then I have to try to remember what I wanted to say sometimes. It’s an awful habit, and one that I need to work one.

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      4. I used to take notes, but I stopped…why, I have no idea. I tell myself that I’ll remember, and I usually do, but I just get frustrated putting thoughts on paper. I’m pretty sure if I didn’t wait sometimes 6 weeks from the time I read the book to review it, that would help, lol.

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  5. Terrific review Stephanie. This one is definitely going on my TBR list! Interestingly, my father grew up in Georgia and had a similar experience with snake-handlers. To this day, he’s in his 80s, he is terrified of snakes and tents.

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    1. Thanks, Mackey! It was a good one! Such a different book, which is why I think it was so intriguing. Oh my! I feel for him! I know my mom will never get over the snakes and she’s almost 66. I grew up going to Baptist tent revivals because my granddad was a Baptist minister and I’ll never go to another–no snakes, but the hellfire and brimstone sermons scared me to death when I was a kid!


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