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The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld
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The Child Finder

by Rene Denfeld

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» See also 42 mentions

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I thoroughly enjoyed this book! While some of the child molestation scenes were disturbing to read, I loved the character of Naomi and was left wanting more. I was thrilled to learn that there is a sequel planned for 2019! ( )
  Sbojo32 | Jan 30, 2019 |
Naomi is a young private investigator who exclusively searches for missing children. Set in the high wilderness of Oregon, the story opens with Naomi being hired by the parents of Madison, who disappeared 3 years earlier while they were out to cut a Christmas tree. The story winds around, slowly revealing Naomi's past and how she came to be in foster care with Mary Cottle and her foster brother, Jerome. She questions the motives and trustworthiness of everyone she encounters on her search for Madison. It took me awhile to understand that sections detailing Mr. B and the snow girl sequences were not Naomi's past, but Madison's experience.

The author deals gently and sensitively with the horrifying topic of abducted children who are held captive and abused, both from the perspective of the children and their parents. There are references to past cases she has worked on, including a subplot of the missing child of woman with mental health issues, which exposes the scope of this problem across racial and socioeconomic groups.

The writing is atmospheric with the back drop of the the snow, forest, and emerging spring in Oregon muffling some of the stark reality in the narrative. The author treats her characters with great compassion, yet holds the reader in tension as the story unfolds. ( )
  tangledthread | Jan 30, 2019 |
The Child Finder, is an amazing book. It could have easily descenended into the depths of depravity, but instead it is uplifting. How can a book about child molesting, abuse, and missing children be uplifting? I doubt I could have even come close but this author did. I dreaded turning pages, but I had to keep going and it was well worth it! I will be recommending it, just as it was recommended to me! Don’t be afraid of the subject matter, you will probably love this book. In a way, it’s all about hope, imagination, adaption, and caring.
  Gmomaj | Jan 27, 2019 |
he past number of years, the news has been filled with accounts of girls or young women kidnapped months or years before and suddenly found alive, having been kept hidden and held hostage by their kidnappers. This is the best possible outcome for kidnapped children although the lifelong emotional toll on the recovered children has to be enormous. But every parent of a taken child must be desperate for such an outcome. Rene Denfeld's novel The Child Finder introduces a character whose specialty is finding missing children, alive or dead, and this first book in a planned series starts off in a quietly spectacular manner.

Naomi is special. Called "the child finder" by her clients, she specializes in finding kidnapped and missing children, never giving up and combing over scant information from every direction possible to help her figure out where the children must be. She agrees to take on the case of little Madison Culver, missing for three years, who disappeared at the age of five when in Skookum National Forest picking a Christmas tree with her family. She seemingly disappeared into thin air and no further trace of her has ever been found but her parents have refused to give up hope even as their own marriage cracks under the strain of not knowing her fate. As Naomi methodically tracks the missing girl, her own story as a missing child, one who escaped but was never reclaimed or identified, haunts her dreams. Her own trauma informs her search for Madison and her concurrent search for the missing baby of a developmentally delayed young woman who has been charged with the baby's murder.

Naomi's own past, which is revealed to the reader in small pieces, informs how she goes about her work, antagonizing some people, pushing others, and only rarely opening up to anyone. She is clearly deeply affected by her own story, allowing her to connect with and have a surprising compassion for broken people even while she is uncomfortable around most folks. Interspersed with flashes of Naomi's past and her search, is a fairy tale of sorts. Calling herself the snow girl, a child tells herself the few small things she remembers of her life before being taken and what she knows and learns of the man with whom she lives. This latter piece of narration is absolutely gut wrenching for the reader but it is not horrifically graphic. Denfeld manages to create full and complex characters even in those only in the story for a brief amount of time, rounding them out as real and understandable in their motivations. Although this is billed as a thriller, because the narrative tension is steady and consistent it really isn't one. The story feels quiet, like it's muffled in the deep snow that quickly covered all traces of Madison's whereabouts when she disappeared. And although it deals with kidnapping and abuse, it somehow feels gentle and compassionate. At the end of the book, only one question remains, Naomi says that "it's never too late to be found" but will she be able to find herself over the course of the series? ( )
1 vote whitreidtan | Jan 25, 2019 |
i don't think i've ever read a book i would describe this way, but this is just so gentle. it's not beautiful or lyrical (in the way i generally mean that), but it is lovely and just so gentle and delicate. which is especially surprising considering the subject matter is trauma and abuse.

i had been surprised when i saw this on lists of thrillers/mysteries, and i understand why it was put there, but this is neither. (if someone picks this up thinking they're getting a thriller, and wanting a heart-pounding race to a big twist, they will wonder what in the world they are reading.) this is literary, but not quite what i'm used to there, either. it's much simpler writing than i'd expected; she's saying a lot without wasting words to say it.

i love the compassion she brings to this story. when i read the bone people i said i'd never read a book that treats child abuse the way hulme did in that book. reading this now, i was reminded of that because both authors show a more full story - all sides of it - than we usually get. denfeld has love for the abuser, and understanding where it is due; she shows the love that can (and does) exist between the child and the person hurting them. i love the reality in that, because it's a truth we just don't acknowledge often. and it shapes how we handle these cases (and similar ones) and would probably make such a difference to survivors if we were more honest about that as a society. and it's a brave thing to do, as an author, because no one wants to be misunderstood as siding with the abuse or saying it's in any way justified or understandable. but in seeing that abusers also love and have goodness in them - and that their victims love them and have a relationship with them that is more than just fear and hurt - this brings such humanity to the story and i'm grateful whenever i find this in literature.

the incorporation of the fairy-tale-ness of it (both in the actual little snippets of fairy tale, the way madison calls herself the snow girl, the beautiful and tragic scene where she tries to make a snow sister come alive, the trail of string that leads like hansel and gretl's bread crumbs, the feeling evoked) is really well done. the book is extremely atmospheric, and the fairy tales lend to this.

this wasn't what i expected, but i really did like it, and i like so much of what she's doing and saying here. and there's plenty more to think about. plus the beauty she manages to paint while telling a story that is filled with sadness; it's so true to life, filled with compassion, and somehow not usually the way we show this world. i really appreciate that she's written this, in this way.

"Each missing place was a portal."

"As always, after having the dream, she tried to uncover the truth. What part was reality and what part was fantasy? Are the stories we tell ourselves true or based on what we dream them to be?"

"She even found a way to share it with Mr. B, playing tag in the woods, alive as if he had never played before. What a sad thing that is, a grown man who has never played."

"Madison didn't understand that people can be good and bad. Not like little-mistakes bad. Like big-mistakes bad. Like go-to-jail bad.

She didn't know that when you have that kind of bad inside you, it's not like your goodness is hiding it. It is more like the badness and the goodness are all mixed together.

Madison didn't know you can love someone who is bad." ( )
  overlycriticalelisa | Jan 12, 2019 |
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Three years ago Madison Culver went missing at the age of five while looking for a Christmas tree with her family. Private investigator Naomi Cottle continues the investigation and believes that Madison's disappearance can only be the result of an abduction. Naomi's personal journey from foster child to adulthood parallels her search for Madison, and as her fears and sources of determination come to light, the narrative also dips into Madison's mind, allowing readers to experience her terrifying ordeal at the hands of her captor.… (more)

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