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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Strange, Disquieting The Child Finder Sad, But Hopeful

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Each child she found was a molecule, a part of herself still left in the scary world she had left behind.  Eventually they would all come together and form one being, knitted together in triumph.  We are not forgotten, her actions told her.  You will not put us aside.  
(Page 124, from an uncorrected proof)

Once upon a time, 28-year-old Naomi Cottle was a lost girl, a missing child, a kidnapped kid praying for rescue.  Although she can't remember the details of her captivity, fragmented memories still haunt her dreams.  Determined to help children in trouble, she's spent the last eight years working as a P.I. searching for the missing and taken.  With an uncanny knack for finding them, she's earned the nickname "The Child Finder."  Desperate parents look to her to facilitate the happy reunions they've been dreaming of—or at least to help them find closure.  

The Culver Family hires Naomi to locate their daughter, Madison, who went missing in Oregon's Skookum National Forest during a family Christmas tree hunt.  It's been three years since the 5-year-old disappeared, but the Culvers have not given up hope of finding Madison.  As Naomi traipses through the woods searching for clues, she mines her own traumatic past in a frantic attempt to find the answers hidden in her own damaged mind.  If she can locate Madison, will Naomi finally be able to unlock the secrets buried deep inside herself? 

While Naomi combs the icy forest, a little girl uses her active imagination to find safety and escape in the only way she can ...

Told in the alternating voices of Naomi and a child who calls herself "the snow girl," The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld is a strange, disquieting novel about being lost and being found.  With experience as an investigator for a public defender, an advocate for victims of sex trafficking, and a foster/adoptive mother, Denfeld clearly has a soft spot for innocents in trouble; it shows in her sensitive handling of this novel's difficult subject matter.  I appreciated that delicacy.  The other thing that stands out about The Child Finder is its shivery atmospheric setting.  Also the fact that it's sad, but ultimately, hopeful.  Other than those things, though, I didn't love this novel.  Naomi struck me as sympathetic but not very likable.  She's pushy, cold, and insensitive; I couldn't understand why parents were so quick to confide in her and all the men fell hopelessly in love with her.  Also, (warning: this may be spoiler-y) because we already know what's happened to Madison, the plot lacks the suspense and tension that would have made it more compelling.  I know I'm in the minority on this one, but for me, The Child Finder is only a so-so read.  I wanted to like it a whole lot more than I did.  

(Readalikes:  Nothing is coming to mind.  You?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (1 F-bomb, plus milder expletives), violence, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of The Child Finder from the generous folks at HarperCollins.  Thank you!

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