Thursday, September 7, 2017

Book Review: "The Child Finder" by Rene Denfeld

You've got that right. But it's not Gaston who has slayed me this time, it is Rene Denfeld's exquisite new book, The Child Finder.

Denfeld has left me breathless before, with her incredible debut novel, The Enchanted (see my original review), which made my list of the best books I read last year. With her second novel, she proves her talent for creating exceptionally memorable characters and beautiful stories which you cannot get out of your mind.

Naomi is an investigator with an uncanny ability of finding lost children. She is often the last resort for desperate parents and police, sometimes even defense attorneys, who call her the "Child Finder." But as successful as Naomi has been at finding out what happened to these children, even saving many of them, Naomi was once a lost girl, too, and she can't quite remember what happened to her before she was found.

"Each child she found was a molecule, a part of herself still remaining 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."

Naomi is hired by the Culver family to find their daughter Madison, who went missing three years ago in Oregon's Skookum National Forest, when they were looking for a Christmas tree. No one can figure out what happened to Madison—did she get lost, did she fall into an abandoned mine hole or other crevasse, or was she taken by someone watching the woods? While the latter option is a disturbing one to ponder, the bitter cold and snow makes it unlikely she might have survived otherwise, let alone still be alive three years later.

Naomi is methodical in her search, knowing that one misstep, or misjudging the weather, could prove dangerous. Yet as she tries to figure out what might have happened to Madison, whether she is alive, and if so, where she might be, she has her own struggles to deal with. She wants to figure out what the nightmares that have her running in her sleep and waking with a howl mean, and where the missing pieces of her own childhood memories lead.

"Her entire life she had been running from terrifying shadows she could no longer see—and in escape she ran straight into life. In the years since, she had discovered the sacrament of life did not demand memory. Like a leaf that drank from the morning dew, you didn't question the morning sunrise or the sweet taste on your mouth. You just drank."

She must also understand why she can never stay in one place, and why she doesn't allow people to get too close to her. And more than that, she faces a decision about her future, and how she feels about the one person who has been a consistent figure in her life for as long as she can remember.

I fell in love with The Child Finder from its very first lines. This is a quietly powerful and emotional story, one of tragedy and triumph, loss and hope, of the balance between uncovering the truth and letting memories be. The chapters are narrated alternatively by Naomi and a magical child, and the characters in this book will find their way into your mind and your heart.

Denfeld is an exceptional writer, and she knows how to draw you into a story and keep you hooked from start to finish. This is a must-read, and if you've never read The Enchanted, run, don't walk, to get that one as well. I will now wait impatiently for Denfeld's next book.

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