Book Title: The Child Finder
Author: Rene Denfeld
REVIEWED BY: CHELSEA
Genres: Mystery, Literary Fiction, Magical Realism
Pub Date: 09/05/17
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?
I cannot in good conscience give this anything less than 5 stars. I’m not sure I have the words to properly describe just how The Child Finder made me feel; it was heavy and disturbing in many ways but contained a haunting beauty that only Rene Denfeld seems capable of mastering. The writing was lush and exquisite, containing her signature trademark stamp of magical realism. I was completely lost in this icy, poignant world, and I can honestly say that I wouldn’t have changed a single aspect in her crafting of this fine tale. Highly recommended with caution, as the content could be a little much for some readers (more on this below).
Without spoiling any details or going too far into the plot, you know from the blurb that this story changes between various POVs, but is mainly regulated to Naomi and “The Snow Child”. Naomi is our protagonist, known simply as the child finder, and she is perfection in her flawed nature and broken past. As she leads the investigation in searching for long time missing Madison, we also get glimpses into another mind, a young girl who will be identified later in the story. The time jumps are not broken up by chapter, so we flow between narratives quite frequently which kept the novel fresh and my attention rapt.
I think the reason I’m so drawn to the author’s work is how she can insert an essence of magical realism that leans heavily on the realism side. Think a character escaping a horrendous ordeal through their imagination. Once again, this story is really quite disturbing in a sense, but not in the gory, graphic way that most thrillers and action novels tend to be. Most of what happens is implied through this magical realism and child like innocence, but for those sensitive to abuse scenarios, you may have trouble reading this. For me, I felt these plot points only added to the brilliance of the story and were fully necessary and tastefully done.
I can’t express how, even with the darkness surrounding the story, Denfeld manages to give her books such a hopeful, light filled feeling; in my humble opinion THIS is what makes her books so readable, relatable, and compulsive in nature. If you read her first book, The Enchanted, and loved it, you’ll likely enjoy this as well; while the plots are completely different they both contain that fairytale like quality shrouded in a contemporary novel. Highly, HIGHLY recommended as I cannot say enough good things about this book, and I cannot wait to see what Rene dreams up next!
*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my copy; it was a pleasure to provide my honest thoughts here.