Book Review: The Child Who Never Was

The Child Who Never Was by Jane Renshaw

Sarah wakes up one day to find that her beautiful 18-month-old child has gone missing. She begins a frantic search only to discover that everyone around her, including her twin sister Evie, insists she’s never had a child. In fact, she’s so delusional the only place she really belongs is a psychiatric hospital. But Sarah’s sure she’s had a child. She remembers giving birth to Oliver and loving the little boy like no other. It felt so real….but was it?

The reason this book called out to me was because my youngest son is around the same age as Oliver and I love a good mystery, so I thought I could connect with the story that way. The first chapter was such a rush you could feel the anxiety in the way the story read. It felt like you were inside Sarah’s head, feeling all the panic and fear she’s going through. Frankly, it actually stressed me out and I had to put the book down for a few days. When I finally picked it up again, it felt kind of repetitive. Like Sarah kept repeating she had a child and everyone kept telling her no, which obviously is the point but it felt more like a grab for filling pages than reinforcement.

This book is also slated as a thriller but it didn’t read like one. After the first stressful, roller-coaster chapter, the rest read like a slow walk–calm and methodical. Sarah’s a smart girl and she thinks everything through completely, including recalling a treasure trove of memories. In that way the story is not exciting but you do get immersed into the serene feel of the British seaside. There were a couple of instances where I got pretty angry with the way children were treated in this book. For one, a child is given an adult psychiatric drug to make him sleep. Like wow. That is wildly inappropriate and irresponsible, I don’t even have to explain why. Another was they left a sleeping child home alone to run errands. Like WHAT? Put the child in a damn car seat! Take him with you! How are we supposed to believe either of these women are good mothers when they put a child in such imminent danger?

All in all, this book was a good little mystery. It wasn’t suspenseful, it read pretty calmly and had a pleasant setting. It made me uncomfortable a few times but watching the story unfold was entertaining enough.

Thank you to the publisher Inkubator Books for providing an eARC in exchange for my honest review.

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