#Book Bingo 2018 is a collaboration challenge I am completing with my favourite blogger, Theresa Smith Writes. How does it work? We have devised our own personalised book bingo card game. Twice a month, on the first and third Saturday of the month, Theresa and I will complete a book review post, outlining our respective bingo card entries. The book bingo card contains a total of 25 squares, which we will complete over the course of the year. To accommodate all the squares, we will be posting additional entries in the months of March and June, this will ensure that we stay on track to complete the book bingo game by December. To keep things interesting for ourselves and those following along with us, the choice of bingo square to be covered will be entirely down to us. We invite you to join us in this fun book related challenge, by linking your bingo card entries in the comments section of this post or by visiting Theresa Smith Writes.
‘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 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 Sammy’s home of Manson, Kentucky, and into a dark past. As the mystery of Sammy’s disappearance unravels and the town’s secrets are revealed, this superb novel builds towards an electrifying climax.
The Nowhere Child, the debut novel written by new Australian writer Christian White, appeared to be the perfect choice to help me fulfil my book bingo 2018 challenge with the square, ‘a prize winning book’. In 2017, The Nowhere Child (with the working title Decay Theory) collected the coveted Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript. This is good news for author Christian White, who has since gained a publishing deal and will see his book published in 15 other countries. It is what every new author dreams of and I can see why success has come to Christian White, his first novel is pretty amazing.
‘Who took Sammy Went?’ is the addictive tagline of The Nowhere Child. The Nowhere Child introduces the character of Kim Leamy, an ordinary woman from Melbourne, who spends her time teaching photography classes. One day Kim’s world is rocked by the revelation of a stranger who comes into her life. This stranger has come all the way to Melbourne, from Kentucky in the US. He is convinced that Kim is actually Sammy Went, a little girl who was tragically taken from her home based in Manson, Kentucky, over twenty eight years ago and has not been seen since. The concept seems utterly unfathomable to Kim to begin with, then, as Kim starts to delve into her own family history in Australia, cracks begin to show. Kim feels compelled to seek the truth to her background and decides to make the trek to the other side of the world, to Kentucky. In the small town of Manson, Kim begins to excavate Sammy’s dark past and in the process, some very surprising secrets are revealed. Christian White’s addictive first novel ties together a complex family drama with religion, old wounds, collusion and recollection.
Christian White proves that yes he is new on the writer’s block, but he should not be overlooked. I do anticipate great things ahead for this fresh new talent. The Nowhere Child is an original novel that takes a standard kidnapping story somewhere else. This book quite literally blew me away! Unexpected is the best singular word I can use to describe this compelling new title.
What initially presents itself as kidnapping crime mystery novel morphs into something much, much more. I was absorbed in Kim come Sammy’s journey from the very start of this novel, until the closing moments. White has the skills to draw you into his novel and I enjoyed the wild ride. I liked the structure of The Nowhere Child, it alternates between the present day and almost thirty years ago. It is a clever way to draw readers in. It also worked well to heighten the creepy mystery element of the book.
White is skilled in recreating his two different settings for his readership. In The Nowhere Child, we are presented with two vastly different locales in which the action of the novel is based. White takes his time to illuminate present day Melbourne, along with an assured setting description of Manson, Kentucky. Both these locations seem to bounce off each other in just the right way, so what remains is a highly evocative composition of place. I felt like I was situated in the here and now at many points of this book with Kim/Sammy, as well as the other characters of this novel.
The character study of Kim/Sammy was everything I would expect and more from a book of this nature. The book is centrally about Kim and her journey to discover her roots and that’s what we get, all wrapped up in a finely tuned package. Although I am slightly older than Kim, I could still place myself in her predicament and consider how I would personally respond to being placed in her situation. It was heartbreaking, perplexing and scary. White taps into our human fears and our gut instincts with this line of his novel. The periphery characters are well rendered in The Nowhere Child and there is a sense that each has a vital role to play in the overall proceedings of the novel. There were a few times in the past storyline where I was confused by who was who and what part they had to play in Sammy’s disappearance. This is a minor glitch only and may be more about my concentration level at the time of reading this novel.
Now a short discussion onto the very different direction White took with this novel. The Nowhere Child represents a kidnapping tale and it is about Kim retracing her steps to uncover the clues to help her understand her past. But there is a significant direction shift in The Nowhere Child and it involves cults and organised religions. I have read a book earlier this year, another thriller based on kidnapping, that explored the role of religious organisations in the abduction of a young girl. White handled this aspect with a completely different angle, he includes some very enlightening information on a particular religious order that uses snakes as part of their practices. It was utterly terrifying, so if you have a fear of snakes in any form, be warned! However, I will say that White performs well in this aspect of his novel, it comes across as well researched and completely plausible.
When we reach the end of the line with Kim/Sammy, it is hard not to reflect on what a hard road travelled this journey has been. It is a fraught path, filled with moments of confusion, earth shattering revelations, despair, betrayal and eventual semblance. The Nowhere Child was a quick read (two sittings) which I encourage crime/thriller enthusiasts to put to the top of their readings lists.
The Nowhere Child by Christian White was published on June 26th 2018 by Affirm Press. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Nowhere Child, Christian White, visit here.