I recently was able to read the upcoming new release that won the Victorian Premier’s Unpublished Manuscript Award called The Nowhere Child by Christian White. Here is my review of it.
Publication Date: 26 June 2018
Publisher: Affirm Press
‘Her name is Sammy Went. This photo was taken on her second birthday. Three days later she was gone.’
On a break between teaching photography classes, Kim Leamy is approached by a stranger investigating the disappearance of a little girl from her Kentucky home twenty-eight years earlier. He believes she is that girl.
At first Kim brushes it off, but when she scratches the surface of her family background in Australia, questions arise that aren’t easily answered. To find the truth, she must travel to Sammy’s home of Manson, Kentucky, and into a dark past. As the mystery unravels and the town’s secrets are revealed, this superb novel builds towards a tense, terrifying, and entirely unexpected climax.
Inspired by Gillian Flynn’s frenetic suspense and Stephen King’s masterful world-building, The Nowhere Child is a combustible tale of trauma, cult, conspiracy and memory. It is the remarkable debut of Christian White, an exhilarating new Australian talent attracting worldwide attention.
I was initially interested in reading The Nowhere Child because it won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award. It has a great premise that immediately made me want to know more. The concept of someone coming to you saying that you could be a missing child from another country is very creepy yet interesting.
The main character is Kim, the woman who has been told that she is really Sammy Went. I found her character to be sympathetic; however, the other characters that are introduced become a bit more interesting. Although this is the case, I preferred reading the novel from Kim’s perspective. There were a lot of characters in the parts set in the past, which, at times, made it difficult to read. Kim was fleshed out well and I connected with her internal struggles about her family because they really made sense.
This novel is set in both Australia and the United States. This was really cool and I enjoyed reading from both locations. I could easily get a sense that each place had diverse cultures, making it obvious about where we were reading. The two different countries is a great strength that the novel has because it makes the fact that Kim was from a diverse place (Australia) more mysterious. The characters treat her like what she is, a foreigner, and this shows how out of touch she is about life in Manson.
Another aspect of the book that I thought was fascinating was the cult that is present in the small town of Manson. It provided an unsettling quality to the book, as I am sure that everyone is creeped out by cults. The cult in Manson involves snakes, and it is something that the Went family have different opinions on.
Something weak about the novel was its writing. It didn’t pull me in, even though the premise was really great. I also felt like the plot twist was both unsurprising and unrealistic. I guessed it halfway through. It wasn’t overly shocking and there were plenty of hints that gave it away. There was also one aspect of the big reveal that I couldn’t really wrap my head around, but I guess it is possible. The readers also never quite question whether Kim is Sammy or not – we basically find out straight away.
The Nowhere Child has a unique premise, but the story is let down by its underwhelming plot twist. I would still recommend it to those who like a good mystery that include two cool settings.
Thank you to Affirm Press for the advanced reader copy that I received via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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