Review: ‘The Nowhere Child’ by Christian White

My rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I was fortunate to meet Christian White recently at my local library, where he spoke with energy and enthusiasm about the inspiration behind The Nowhere Child and his approach to writing the book. Several audience members reported that their book clubs had given it the highest rating of all books read in 2018. I was encouraged by these glowing endorsements and it did not disappoint.

“On a break between teaching photography classes in Melbourne, Kim Leamy is approached by a stranger investigating the disappearance of a little girl from her Kentucky home twenty-eight years earlier. He believes Kim is that girl.

At first she brushes it off, but when Kim scratches the surface of her family history in Australia, questions arise that aren’t easily answered. To find the truth, she must travel to … Manson, Kentucky, and into a dark past.”

This debut novel is a gripping page-turner, which moves seamlessly between the past and present. It’s a tale of trauma, cult and conspiracy in the bizarre world of Pentecostal snake handlers. Knowing this world actually exists, that snake handling is still practised as a religious rite by some churches/congregations in southeastern USA, heightens the intrigue. The juxtaposition of place (urban Melbourne and rural, small-town Manson) adds another level of interest and complexity to the story.

Kim, the main protagonist, is familiar and relatable; the supporting characters enthralling and vividly drawn. Our empathy for Kim develops through each of her interactions with family and townsfolk, as we accompany her on the journey from denial to curiosity to obsession. 

Each chapter reveals a new secret, a piece of the puzzle. And as the mystery unravels, Kim’s search for truth gathers momentum and urgency. There are plenty of twists and turns, plus a few red herrings to keep you guessing, as the suspense builds to a dramatic climax. The impact of that and the questions it raises will stay with you long after the last page is read.

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