The Child Finder is a haunting tale told in the most imaginative way.
Naomi Cottle finds missing children. When the police have given up their search and an investigation stalls, families call her. She possesses a rare, intuitive sense, born out of her own harrowing experience that allows her to succeed when others have failed.
Young Madison Culver has been missing for three years. She vanished on a family trip to the mountainous forests of Oregon, where they’d gone to cut down a tree for Christmas. Soon after she disappeared, blizzards swept the region and the authorities presumed she died from exposure.
But Naomi knows that Madison isn’t dead. Can she find the child – and also find out why this particular case is stirring the shadows of her own memories? Could her future be bound to this girl in a way she doesn’t understand?
This story is told against the backdrop of a cold and snowy landscape, narrated mostly by Naomi and “The Snow Child” – The Child Finder is a compelling read that keeps you engaged from beginning to end. Madison is missing, Naomi is determined to find her, but as Naomi gets deeper into this case, Madison is not the only person she is trying to find, she is also finding herself. You see, what makes Naomi so good at her job is her intuition; she, too, knows pain, her past is her motivation in a way much deeper than you think. Naomi is a likeable character, a complex character, a character that you root for, not only to succeed in finding Madison but, also, in finding herself. Throughout the novel, Naomi is haunted by what she calls “The Big Dream” – what does it mean? She knows it holds the clue to what happened in her own past, but can she unlock what this nightmare is telling her?
What I loved most about this novel was the contrast – there’s a mythical quality to the writing, it carries that tone of awe and wonder that you often find in fairy tales; this is in part attributed to the narrative of “The Snow Child” – the innocent of a child. However, the story told is a harrowing one containing themes of child imprisonment and abuse. The contrast of the beautiful writing and the haunting plot was so wonderfully done. Using magical realism to deepen the plot, Denfeld has crafted a “missing child” novel that I won’t quickly forget. One that contains so much beauty (the writing) amongst so much pain (the plot); as the reader you are able to lose yourself in the story but are, in a sense, shielded from the pain.
The Child Finder has a brilliant psychological aspect to it, it really explores how the brain creates ways of surviving in dark times – the defense mechanisms both children and adults use. And this novel isn’t without its surprises either, there were two things in particular that had me amazed, totally unpredictable – you know when you’re reading a novel and you’re just so impressed by a certain “reveal” that you just nod your head, like “yep, this author knows what they’re doing.”
The narration does jump back and forth between narrators and timelines, as we relive parts of Naomi’s past with her. Initially, I was confused by the change in narrator/timelines because the writing is so smooth and fluid and there’s not always a chapter to announce the change; but I quickly got used to it and it didn’t detract from my enjoyment.
If you enjoy magical realism in your novels, I highly recommend The Child Finder, it’s also perfect for readers who don’t like reading “in-your-face” abuse, especially when it relates to children. Denfeld is subtle, you don’t flinch when reading but instead, feel immense sadness. This is far from a depressing read though, there’s so much hope and innocence, strength and determination. I look forward to reading more from Denfeld.