Book Review: The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld

Goodreads: The Child Finder (Naomi Cottle #1)
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense
Rating: ★★★★☆

Three years ago, Madison Culver disappeared when her family was choosing a Christmas tree in Oregon’s Skookum National Forest. She would be eight years old now—if she has survived. Desperate to find their beloved daughter, certain someone took her, the Culvers turn to Naomi, a private investigator with an uncanny talent for locating the lost and missing. Known to the police and a select group of parents as The Child Finder, Naomi is their last hope. Naomi’s methodical search takes her deep into the icy, mysterious forest in the Pacific Northwest, and into her own fragmented past. She understands children like Madison because once upon a time, she was a lost girl too.  As Naomi relentlessly pursues and slowly uncovers the truth behind Madison’s disappearance, shards of a dark dream pierce the defenses that have protected her, reminding her of a terrible loss she feels but cannot remember. If she finds Madison, will Naomi ultimately unlock the secrets of her own life? 

“This is something I know: no matter how far you have run, no matter how long you have been lost, it is never too late to be found.”

It’s been a few days since I’ve finished this book and for some reason I’m still not really sure what to say about it; but I know I did really enjoy it. This wasn’t a fast paced thriller but more of a slow burn mystery that explores the dark depths of humanity and the effects of abuse on children/adults.

Despite the dark and heavy tones and topic of this novel, Rene Denfeld writes in such a beautifully descriptive way that it oftentimes felt like I was reading a fairytale. The author incorporates the surrounding nature and environment of the Pacific Northwest into her story very well, and I think it really added to the genuine feeling of loneliness, and desperation of the characters, town and situation. There was a certain magical quality to the writing that makes it feel like you’re reading through a dream. I thought this was fitting because the story covers the ways in which a person, specifically a child, can deal with traumatic events that happen. One of the coping mechanisms that’s cited is that they’ll often create a magical (fairytale) world that essentially protects them from the reality of their situation. This novel really dives into the psychology of abuse and delivers a powerful story that’s full of emotion. Through many parts of the book I felt such a profound sadness and teared up at various emotionally touching scenes.

“She said we are all part of a secret club. Someday, she said, we will take over the earth. It will be people like us that save the world, she said: those who have walked the side of sorrow and seen the dawn.”

Rene Denfeld also surprised me with the way she chose to narrate this story. I was expecting to only explore one character’s perspective, but Denfeld introduces a very unique perspective that made the story all the more emotionally gut-punching. I don’t want to give more away by going into it, but I definitely think it made it more hard-hitting and impactful. I really enjoyed Naomi’s character. She’s strong, but at the same time, she is delicate and often has a childlike naivety to her interactions with certain people. It’s a clear example of how trauma and abuse in childhood can impact a person well into adulthood.

“Everyone needs faith: faith that even though the world is full of evil, a suitor will come and kiss us awake; faith that the girl will escape the tower, the big bad wolf will die, and even those poisoned by malevolence can be reborn, as innocent as purity itself.”

That said, while I enjoyed the many perspectives, I also wondered if it was necessary for certain characters because I felt their narratives did not really add anything substantial to the story — if these narratives weren’t included, I honestly don’t think it wouldn’t have made a big impact in the plot. There were times that I also found parts of the writing too abstract and a little too existential for my tastes. This was especially so for sections of Naomi’s narration, when she’s reflecting on her present and past, and I didn’t feel that it added anything of significance to the story. It just left me feeling slightly confused — was I missing something important in not understanding how to read between these lines? I didn’t think so, in the end!

Overall though, I really enjoyed this one. There will be a second book in the Naomi Cottle series coming out in October 2019, and I can’t wait to read it! 😊 I am also excited to read the author’s first book The Enchanted, which I’ve heard is a beautifully written and enchanting (ha) story, although ti does have a lot more magical realism in it.

Have you read anything by Rene Denfeld? Do you plan to?
Let me know in the comments — let’s chat books!

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