The Nowhere Child by Christian White
One rainy Melbourne evening, photography teacher Kim Leamy is approached in the cafeteria by a man who has news that will knock Kim right out of her orbit: he believes that she is not Kim Leamy, but in fact Sammy Went, who disappeared twenty-eight years earlier from her home in Manson, Kentucky. Two-year-old Sammy’s disappearance caused a rift within not only her own family, but through the town itself, one populated by a religious community that believe that snake-handling is a way to God. As Kim attempts to discover whether the mother and stepfather she adores have been hiding a secret for nearly three decades, the past is relived and the path to Sammy Went’s real story is slowly revealed.
Imagine being presented with the idea that your family is not what you have always believed – it’s inconceivable. Kim’s reaction to this situation follows a believable trajectory of disbelief, gentle investigation, and absolute fear for herself and her family. Her mother is no longer alive to tell Kim the truth – whatever it is – and her half-sister Amy is furious at Kim for even entertaining the idea. When Kim flees to America to dig for the truth, she is confronted with a history that not everyone wants to revisit – one that plays out in alternating chapters that see a small, claustrophobic town full of suspicion and distrust between those that believe in the power of the Church of the Light Within, and those who do not.
The Nowhere Child – winner of the 2017 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Best Unpublished Manuscript – is a taut, rattling thriller that will have you shrieking the next time you see an abandoned piece of rope in the middle of the road.