The Nowhere Child by Christian White

1. First lines. 2. Published 2018 Affirm Press; Macmillan US; Harper Collins UK 3. Man woman bench [Public Domain] via Pxhere 4. Innocent child [Public Domain] via Pxhere
The story:

Kim Leamy is a thirty-year-old Australian living in Melbourne. She is approached one day by an American man who claims to be her brother. He believes Kim is his sister Sammy, who went missing from her home in Kentucky at the age of two, and was never found. Kim has lived in Australia all her life, or so she believes, with her mother, stepfather and half-sister. She starts investigating for herself, and eventually travels to Kentucky to continue her investigations, where she tries to solve the mystery of the missing girl.


“Hundreds of people were calling her name. The procession of search volunteers stretched from the concrete channel and through the woods, cutting a jagged line all the way to the firebreak. They marched slowly, three feet apart, eyes down, searching the underbrush as they called out.”

“Stumbling blindly into the dark, my left foot fell against a tight, leathery coil. The snake sounded its rattle, so close I could feel the vibrations in my toes. Afraid it might turn savage if I kicked it or tried to move, I remained perfectly still. Even if I could charge forward, I didn’t know which direction to head. And even if I managed to avoid the reptile at my foot, the floor was peppered with rattling landmines. Slithering, scurrying nightmarish shapes moved all around me in the dark.”

My thoughts:

Highly recommended as an escapist read for the holidays. Even though I was a bit dubious about some of the bizarre situations, I pushed through my disbelief. Truth is often stranger than fiction, right? I enjoyed the thriller elements, and found that I was page-turning, and enjoying the ride.

Book reviews:
  • Sydney Morning Herald: “Kim’s story is compelling because there’s a possibility that it could be true. The nightly news shows us wild stories unearthed about families whose veneer seems quite ordinary. White taps into complex identity-related fears old and new, and comes up with a multifaceted, unsettling debut.”
  • Kirkus: “By the end of all the melodramatic twists, readers will have a hard time sustaining any interest in the protagonist, her relations, or her revelations.”
  • New York Journal of Books: “The quibbles: It’s unlikely that many residents of Appalachia would have referred to religious fundamentalists in their midst as “fundies” 30 years ago, as they do in the novel. Nor would they freely toss around the term “pussy” in mixed, adult company. Likewise, an African American would be unlikely to be elected county sheriff in a predominately white, rural and, arguably, racist part of the country. Inevitably, some American characters lapse into Australian expressions, “selling up” an old house, rather than “selling out”; rural roads described as “unsealed,” rather than “unpaved.” And surveillance cameras in the U.S. aren’t called CCTV, as they are in Australia and England. But Nowhere Child is not a documentary; it’s a story, and a gripping one that overcomes its shortcomings.
  • Judge’s Comment (Victorian Premier’s Prize for an unpublished manuscript) (Title: Decay Theory by Christian White): “When an American accountant approaches Melbourne-based Kimberly Leamy and tells her he believes she is Sammy Went, a child who was abducted as a two year old from her home in Manson, Kentucky, Kim believes this is a case of mistaken identity. But as she investigates her family, questions arise and she travels to Kentucky to find answers. This is an assured novel that is a page-turner about a small town mystery dealing with trauma, cult and memory.”

Christian White


Winner 2017 Unpublished manuscript Victorian Premier’s Literary Award. The manuscript title was Decay Theory.

Other editions:

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