A windowless shack in the woods. Lena’s life and that of her two children follows the rules set by their captor, the father: meals, bathroom visits, study time are strictly scheduled and meticulously observed. He protects his family from the dangers lurking in the outside world and makes sure that his children will always have a mother to look after them.
One day Lena manages to flee – but the nightmare continues. It seems as if her tormentor wants to get back what belongs to him. And then there is the question whether she really is the woman called ‘Lena’, who disappeared without a trace over thirteen years ago. The police and Lena’s family are all desperately trying to piece together a puzzle that doesn’t quite seem to fit.
250.000 copies sold in Germany – 5th bestselling paperback in Germany in 2019
I really enjoy reading these types of books and yes I know books like Room, The Good Girl, The Marsh King’s Daughter and others talk about abduction, imprisonment and abuse, which is always hefty and disturbing to read but they also happen to really touch me to my core if done right. Dear Child was perfect and pulled at my heartstrings straight away. I fell into its pages from the start because it hits you full on with little snippets about what happened at the cabin, sending shivers down my spine. Fortunately the tension does let up after a little while because much more than a story about the time in the cabin is it a storyline about the aftermath, how everyone reacts, how the media doesn’t leave you alone, and how you are free then but not free in your head, it’s about the enormous trauma it causes. The main character struggles to trust, to enjoy, to be herself when her identity was demolished to the ground from the minute she found herself waking up in that cabin. She had to be someone else or suffer the consequences, so who is she now?
Dear Child is narrated by 3 different characters and keeps you guessing about what happened all those years ago and who took Lena. It’s quite a complex story and I loved how the author added another layer to it. It made me rather confused and puzzled about Lena though, some of just didn’t add up, she seems to be keeping something to herself but I couldn’t see how this piece of the puzzle fit into the greater picture, there was a sizeable mystery aspect woven into the story. Her father doesn’t recognize her in the hospital for instance which was beyond strange because he does recognize her daughter Hannah as his grandchild right away and she seems to have seen her grandfather at a garden party on one of the secret outings that her father didn’t know about.
I loved the determination of Matthias, Lena’s father, but also really liked to follow Lena’s daughter Hannah. Hannah is a young girl who knows everything about everything, she can give full definitions of the most complex terms and processes. In other ways she lacks emotions and she is quite chilling. Her view of reality is – understandably – very distorted. Sometimes I didn’t even know she was talking about things that weren’t real because I only had Hannah’s reality, only when I read further along I would then realise that it was her imagination and that would knock me back again.
The person I loved most in the end though was Lena and I only realised just how much when I was almost turning those last pages. The strength she had, the things she did for her children and how she made their life better, how she told them about the constellations and bedtime stories, preparing them for the moment they would be able to step into the real world, how my heart bled for her and how she was still busy working on a future when she couldn’t even tell if it was night or day.
The last part of the novel took a very unexpected turn, it turns into a real thriller there that made me sit up straight, and it gave the answers to all the much sought after questions I had stored in my head. I didn’t think it would happen again but my heart bled once more when I read about the reasons why this had happened. Although you wouldn’t say so, the story has so much to do with love, love for your wife, your father, your daughter, your children,… sometimes love knows no limits and this book shows the darkest sides but also the deepest and bestest side of love.
A dark and gripping story with a great twist! Well crafted and memorable!
I received a free ecopy of this novel from the publisher, QuercusBooks, via Netgalley. This is my honest opinion.