I recently saw Dear Child by Romy Hausmann pop up in my bookstagram feed, and saw it described as “Room meets Gone Girl”–and that sounded right up my alley. I absolutely loved Room–it reminded me of the way I felt while reading A Child Called It when I was in high school. Not really the same genre, but it evoked the same feeling in me: that these unspeakable horrors that I thought were simply fictitious actually happen in this world, in this country. I love true crime, and I love mystery/thriller, so I was excited to read this book.
Summary: Lena and her 2 children are held captive in a windowless shack in the woods, held prisoner in every aspect by their male captor. He dictates what and when they eat, sleep, use the bathroom, and they never leave the shack’s four walls.
…until Lena and her daughter escape, setting in motion a thrilling sequence of events. Is “Lena” who she claims to be? The real Lena’s father, Matthias, doesn’t think so, but Lena’s daughter, Hannah, is the spitting image of the daughter Matthias lost thirteen years ago. Who is this woman claiming to be Lena? What happened to the real Lena? Who is their captor, what was his motive?
My Review: Am I the only person who gets pulled into a book from the quotes on the book jacket? When I saw Alice Feeney quote “Room meets Gone Girl … Gripping,” I knew I was going to consume this book quickly. And I did. I was feeling under the weather while reading this book, so I didn’t read it as quickly as I normally would have (I took breaks to snuggle with the toddler, dogs, and take daytime naps. I forgot just how blissful daytime naps are!)
I have to admit, I was a bit confused throughout this book. There are things mentioned that I was like, wait, what? What does that mean? that I couldn’t figure out how they fit into the story. You know how sometimes, things can get lost in editing? Like, the writer named her cousin Agnes in the beginning of the book, but her name gets changed to Carol later in the book, and the editor missed that one mention of Agnes in the beginning? (hey, it happens, we’re all human). I thought that was what was happening in this book…until literally the last page. Hausmann wraps up every loose end on the VERY LAST PAGE (zero spoilers, read it for yourself! You won’t be sorry).
The one thing that irritated me throughout the book was Hannah, Lena’s daughter, who I pegged as an unreliable narrator from the get-go. The writer and literary analyst in me love an unreliable narrator–you can be lied to for the ENTIRE BOOK just to learn the narrator is unstable or crazy, and everything they’ve told you isn’t true, or is only their interpretation of the events unfolding within the book. The reader in me feels straight up betrayed by unreliable narrators. HOW COULD YOU? I invested my time and dedication into reading your account, and you’re lying to me!? Rude. I could definitely see Hannah as having Asperger’s, as is suggested several times throughout the book. Or, OR–she could just be a child who was born and raised for thirteen years in captivity, who has no idea how to socialize or interact with anyone outside of the 3 people in her family/prison.
Conclusion: Dear Child by Romy Hausmann was a solid four out of five stars for me. This book kept me guessing and engaged from start to finish. I never got bored reading this one. And I was shocked with the ending–truly did not see it coming. And as someone who reads as much as I do, that is surprising indeed! I highly recommend this read, especially if you liked Room by Emma Donoghue.