Don’t you love it when you pick up a book with little to no expectations … and it then effectively picks up you, refusing to let up or let go from start to finish. This was exactly the case with The Nowhere Child. Debut author Christian White is most definitely ‘going places’ if his novel The Nowhere Child is anything to go by. The premise behind the story is what if you discovered you were abducted as a child and the people you think are your parents are in fact your kidnappers? Sammy Went is a two year old toddler who goes missing in America in 1990. Kim Leamy is a Melbourne-based teacher of photography who is informed she is probably that missing child. Unconvinced? So was the protagonist to begin with, but when the evidence points its gnarly finger Kim is compelled to follow. The novel is two-fold in that it interweaves the stories of Sammy’s abduction and Kim’s journey back to her Kentucky roots.

If I’m being honest, I don’t think the cover is the most enticing (I wonder if White feels the same way?) and the only thing that might have persuaded me to pick this one up amidst all the other wonderful novels in a bookshop is the fact that it won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award in 2017. However, being someone who likes to support my local bookshop (Farrells in Mornington) and intrigued by authors’ stories of their inspiration and publishing journeys, especially local writers such as White (a former Mornington Secondary pupil) I had decided to go along to a talk he was giving in the shop – hence the purchase of The Nowhere Child. For a while the novel sat around on the pile of books, a nowhere book, by my bedside …

But, when I finally got around to reading it (last night – seeing as the bookshop event is next week) I couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised – surprised being the operative word. White knows how to hook you in and keep you glued. There are unexpected twists in every chapter, cliffhangers that keep you turning the page so you are forced to read on and read late – late, late, late into the night (thank you for that Christian!). I had the chills, I had a bubble of nervousness that sat on my chest as I read, I was moved to tears and I laughed at his pithy humour. I cannot stop thinking about it …

Supposedly influenced by the likes of Stephen King and Gillian Flynn, White builds a  tense, believable and compelling literary world, that of the religious cult and he does it just as well as either of those authors. The characters in the novel prod and poke your sensibilities. The settings make your feel claustrophobic and on edge. The story does not loosen its grip. For a debut novelist White’s control of his craft seemed effortless and masterful; my control over my own reading was not – my pace progressed from walk, to trot, to canter, to a flat out gallop to the finish. As much as I was loving The Nowhere Child I could not slow down.  I went on to read the author’s note and the acknowledgements. I hated that I had finished it! I shall just have to read it again, to unpick how on earth White did it…

Congratulations to Christian! The Nowhere Child definitely achieves a double thumbs up – I wish I had more than two hands. It was a cracking read, a breath-taking rollercoaster, and I’m already on the task of spreading the word – read it! Christian White has stepped onto the literary podium and this is one to shout about…

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