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Reviewed in the United States on September 10, 2018
Susannah Harper's son, Joel, has been missing for five years. Susannah refuses to believe her son is dead and clings to her desperate hope that he is alive and will return to her one day. Unable to cope with their son's disappearance, Susannah and her husband, John divorce. This leaves Susannah alone to blog and follow whatever leads which may come up however misleading and cruel they may be. As she is obsessed with finding answers about her son's disappearance, she turns to psychics. One night she visits a fair with her sister and visits a fortune teller, who tells her three vague things such as her son will come back to her but not the how, why or where. Susannah is left wanting more answers and things get a little wonky. From Susannah's point of view, she is doing fine but her sister points out how Susannah scared her children at the fair.
Soon Susannah is hallucinating, and scenes occurred, and while reading them, I questioned whether the scenes were real, figments of her imagination, results of stress or if they were really happening. Something isn't quite right with her hallucinations and she questions if her missing son is trying to send her messages. One might question if the stress of not knowing is playing tricks on her mind? Is her constant turmoil and search for the truth affecting her perception? Or is she just a sleep deprived Mother coping with the disappearance of her child?
This is a slower paced book which tells the story through Susannah in the present with glimpses back into the past. Susannah and John tried hard for a child and felt blessed when their "winters child" entered their lives. Happy to be parents, the couple often had differing viewpoints on how to parent Joel.
This book also shows through the responses to her blog, the sick and cruel way, people try to prey on the loss of others. To use their hope against them for their own means.
This book has some twists but none that really wowed me. The ending was more alike an "aha" moment. I wasn't shocked and I'm not sure if most readers will be, but it will still evoke emotion. The word "haunting" comes up a lot in the description of this book. That feels about right. Something isn't quite right, and I dare you to put your finger on it. This psychological thriller is chilling, thought provoking and has the reader feeling various emotions while reading. If you are looking for an edge-of-your-seat-page-turner you wont quite get it here. I found this to be a slower paced book but one that is still enjoyable.
Thank you to Legend Press and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All the thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are my own.
4.0 out of 5 starsWinter's child may be no delight
Reviewed in the United States on August 12, 2018
Well, this book, despite its title and setting, doesn’t counteract the obscenely hot summer weather we’re having. But it does take your mind off of it. In fact, it’s unbelievably (literally) compelling for being such a flawed book. Where does one even start here? Ok, how about…this book featured the most irredeemably loathsome narrator I’ve encountered in a while. Yes, this is another one of those female authored female centered suspense thrillers and the main character is a mother. No, actually, she’s a Mother. She’s dedicated her entire life to one goal and in backfired explosively. She’s obsessive, obsessed, grief stricken and slowly driven mad by her idle mind. She’s also manipulative, overbearing and cunning. She controls her adoring spouse and later her worshipping lover with sex to make sure they do her bidding. She’s the sort of woman who is well away of what women like her do and say, she’s a type and is well aware of it. She’s a slender attractive blue eyed blonde who uses her looks and put upon helpless act to get her away, the sort of woman who’d use baby doll voice to ask for things. In a word, tedious. Susannah (don’t abbreviate her name, she won’t stand for it, John and Joel were meant to be a happy family. She had it all planned out. It didn’t work out. Joel disappeared, the marriage ended and now she’s all alone with nothing to do for years, living off of alimony presumably, with nothing to do her mind starts feeding on itself spinning her into spiraling madness. Not only a classic unreliable narrator, she’s a genuinely unlikeable one. She has smothered and cosseted her son into becoming a pathetically weak young man, repeatedly sabotaging any attempt of John’s to get him straightened out. She’s effectively solely responsible for the demise of her marriage, from suspecting John of terrible things to wasting thousands on psychics. She’s as odious and as unsympathetic of a character as you can find. You won’t love to hate her, you’ll just hate her. The fact that the book works with her at the center of it is…well, astonishing, really. Essentially as a reader you spend the entire book wrapped up in her lunacy. I’d be ok with that if the payoff was worth it, but alas, the ending can be predicted from a mile’s equivalent of digital words away. And in a suspense thriller that’s just a no no. Spending 288 pages with that horrid protagonist would have been tolerable had the prerequisite twist ending was sufficiently twisted…maybe. But don’t leave me with this psychotic mess and not properly surprise me at the end. That’s just…disappointing. Good thing the book had that weirdly mesmerizing quality of watching a train wreck in slow motion. The author can write, the characters she comes up with, though…that’s another matter altogether.
Reviewed in the United States on September 22, 2018
How do you watch a person going mad, page by page, ever so slowly, ripping you apart, page by page, ever so slowly? A child goes missing, sanity is bright, shiny and not real. Psychological torture on each page, in so many words, sentences, paragraphs.
Susannah and John want their perfect family but there are problems and they are unable to conceive. One perfect winter’s day they are matched to a foundling and with the adoption of Joel they are a family. Now they are three and everything they hoped for is not bliss. John is too demanding, Susannah is too forgiving, and Joel is manipulative. It is a wearisome story and would be easily dismissed except the reader becomes a party to the conflict by contemplating a question constantly asked; Is it normal for a parent to love a child more than their spouse?
Susannah expects us to forgive and give her a pass when she can’t afford herself that forgiveness. But the ability to acknowledge a failing and the ability to right a wrong never come together. She blogs and warns never to trust a psychic and yet she runs from one to another seeking any reassurance. Sanity is a pretend thing, the mud keeps pulling her down, slowly, ever so slowly.
Cassandra Parkin has written the most agonizing story about the devastation left behind when a child goes missing. Well written if a bit repetitive. Just shy of four stars.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 16, 2018
'Winter's Child' is another example of Cassandra Parkin's superb writing. A deeply haunting tale of loss, I was completely mesmerised by the story and characters.
When her teenage son went missing, Susannah was bereft. Joel was her life and in her desperation to find him she began to visit clairvoyants; seeking answers to his disappearance. Her inability to focus on anything but Joel bought her marriage to an end, and, five years on, she finds herself alone, still searching for him. She no longer believes in clairvoyants and blogs about their deceptions, but an encounter with a mystic at a local fair starts up a chain of events that sees Susannah and those around her question her ability to function. As she becomes increasingly traumatised, details of the weeks surrounding Joel's disappearance begin to surface, and Susannah finally gets the answers she craves.
Truly compelling and heartbreaking, my Kindle didn't leave my hands throughout. The characters are amazing and the conclusion left my heart in knots. Highly recommended!
5.0 out of 5 starsCouldn’t put it down! A beautifully woven story
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 20, 2020
The main character Susannah has a missing son Joel who disappeared without a trace. She spends her life searching and constantly wondering what happened to him, whether he is alive or dead. As a mum of teenage sons I cannot even imagine what she is going through as the story unfolds. It was a difficult read at times. The relationship between Susannah and her husband John is believable. They have different parenting styles and both want the same things, but they go about it differently.
Being a Hull girl myself, the sheer mention of Hull Fair playing a small part in this book made me an instant fan! I did have a slight concern that the fortune telling would be too big a part of the storyline and that this could turn into a premonition type book and I was pleased to find that this was not the case at all! After Susannah sees a fortune teller at Hull Fair who gives a prediction about her missing son, she is sent into a world she could easily be sucked into, believing in the supernatural when she has nothing else to pin her hopes onto. She later meets a woman in a similar situation to herself, Jackie. I loved Jackie. I could hear her accent, see her house and knew exactly how her partner and kids looked too. She came across to me as a ‘salt of the earth’ or ‘rough diamond’ type and I liked her.
I loved the friendship between Susannah and Jackie as they are from such different backgrounds but are linked by their dreadful experiences.
I couldn’t put this book down and didn't work it out until it was fed to me by this talented writer! A must read.
3.0 out of 5 starsSkillful writting, but a very weird end
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 7, 2018
OK, it took me a little bit of time to get into this story, perhaps good 10-15 pages before I started to enjoy it. Than it was interesting and I really wanted to know what will happen next. I admit that at times I did jump over some paragraphs that I felt were a bit boring. The end is the weirdest end I have ever read. I don't know what to think. Very strangely written. Would I want to read this book again? I am not sure, I probably would not. Would I recommend it? I don't know. It does keep you wondering, lots of skillful writing, going on a bit too much at times with descriptions of emotions etc... but I just can't get over the end. I hated how it ended. I am not saying the author is a bad writer, far from it but I think her style of writing is probably just not for me.
Cassandra Parkin has become one of my favourite authors recently and I've read all her books with great joy and satisfaction. Now, when I see her name I don't even read the blurb before buying the book and diving in. This book was every bit as good as all her others and had me gripped to the end. Just brilliant.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 5, 2020
The free sample I downloaded appeared really intriguing and prompted me to buy the kindle version at over £6.However, I felt it became too muddled and ridiculous. I know that this book has a lot of 4 and 5 star ratings but I disagree. The detective looking for the missing boy lusting after the middle aged woman made it so unreal and it was easy to guess the ending. Sorry but not for me.