Sunday, January 3, 2021

Dear Child by Romy Hausmann

by Romy Hausmann
Release Date: October 6th 2020
2020 Flatiron Books (first published 2019 by dtv verlag)
Kindle Edition; 352 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250768537
Genre: Fiction / Suspense
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

She says her name is Lena. Lena, who disappeared without a trace 14 years prior. She fits the profile. She has the distinctive scar. But her family swears that she isn’t their Lena.

The little girl who escaped the woods with her knows things she isn’t sharing, and Lena’s devastated father is trying to piece together details that don’t quite fit. Lena is desperate to begin again, but something tells her that her tormentor still wants to get back what belongs to him…and that she may not be able to truly escape until the whole truth about what happened in the woods finally emerges.
My Thoughts
Dear Child is a psychological thriller about a woman who disappeared over thirteen years ago without a trace, but who turns up in a hospital, with a thirteen-year-old daughter, after a being hit by a car in a remote forest in the middle of the night.  Twisty and edgy, this one kept me guessing until the end.

The plot line is told in multiple POVs: Lena's father, Mathias; Lena; and Lena's daughter, Hannah. There are no chapters in this book and the story just shifts from one POV to another, and can also jump from one time period to another.  The switch between POVs and time periods is quite seamless though, and I had no problem following along as each person had their unique voice and personality, plus each section was labelled by whose voice we heard. 
That this story is dark is definitely not in doubt as you can't discuss a missing woman for thirteen years without darkness, but how dark it actually gets is disturbing.  The pacing moves rather quickly, and while there are some disturbing scenes, most of it is left up to the imagination of the reader to understand what really happened in the cabin in the woods.  Unfortunately for me, I have quite a vivid imagination, but I am eternally grateful to the author for not going into graphic detail or I definitely do not think I would have been able to finish this book.  That 'Lena' would have suffered terribly is never in question, and I spent some time after finishing the novel trying to imagine how she could have endured it. But I did have some questions as well as there are loop holes in this story a mile wide; unfortunately, I can't discuss them on here as they are major plot spoilers, but I am itching to discuss them with someone who has read this book.   

One of the main problems I had with this book was with the main character, Mathias.  I don't know if I was supposed to feel sympathetic towards him, but I couldn't; by the end of the book, I loathed him. I understand that he is suffering over the loss of his daughter and doesn't want to hear anything negative about her, but some of the things he did would have been obstruction of justice here in Canada.  I kept forgetting the book is a German translation as the author lives in Stuttgart so the justice system does not work the same way, but the things he did just blew me away.  His character certainly made me think about how well we actually know our own children and how easily we can drive them away by seeing through rose-tinted glasses and not really listening to their needs and their desires.  

I also was not overly fond of Hannah, but for different reasons.  I believe the author did that on purpose to show the reader the effects of isolation and watching one parent abuse another for years can have on their psychological development. Her reactions to things made me shiver as they were so cold and calculating.  

Lena's chapters were absolutely the most interesting thing about this book.  I'll have to stop here though as there are major plot spoilers if I discuss them so you will just have to read the book to understand. However, I will say it was her story that left me with the most questions as it seemed to have the most loop holes. Contrived plot points? Absolutely.  

Dear Child was certainly not what I was expecting.  It was a creepy, psychological thriller that I had a hard time putting down, one that was full of twists and turns, even if I was not fond of all the characters.  The ending was a little crazy, and it was certainly not the person I thought it was, but it was an interesting twist, if a little jarring as it came out of nowhere although looking back I do see some of the clues.  If you're looking for something creepy, then I recommend this English debut novel by this author, and I am looking forward to the next psychological thriller.



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