Book Review: The Nowhere Child by Christian White

TL;DR – mystery crime about a two-year old gone missing, a family with dark secrets and a religious fundamentalist snake handling group. Past and present revealed chapter by chapter until they collide.

Summary (warning: spoilers)

Kimberley Leamy lives in Melbourne, Australia and teaches photography. She is approached one day by a man who claims she is actually Sammy Went, a child who went missing twenty-six years earlier from Manson, Kentucky. The whole idea sounds absurd, especially when the memories of her childhood were generally happy, and she was raised by loving parents, Carol and Dean. However, when evidence is presented to her, she begins to doubt Carol and Dean are her biological parents and undertakes a journey to uncover her true origins.


Christian White’s debut novel won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award and is a gripping tale that alternates chapters between past and present to fill in the mystery behind the abduction and sudden disappearance of Sammy Went. It is a clever story if a bit convoluted, and White is adept at keeping the reader on course by tying you emotionally into Kimberley’s search for the truth and her own identity.

Travelling to America, she discovers a world completely different to the one she has lived for most of her life in Australia. And when it is revealed a Pentecostal fundamentalist group known as The Church of the Light Within is involved and part of their worship involves the handling of snakes, you know that things are going to get a little dark. The idea of snake handling is to demonstrate one’s faith and that you should be able to handle deadly snakes without being harmed. This also involves drinking snake venom and the individual not being poisoned.

Combining snake handling with the secrets being hidden by Kimberley’s biological family, you will find yourself turning the pages easily enough in a desire to see out Kimberley’s fate. It is a decent read though I would recommend The Wife and The Widow over this one. The last half of The Nowhere Child not delivering the thrills that the first half seeks to build up.

3 out of 5.

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