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IN DEAR CHILD, a woman and her children escape their captor, but can they ever really be free? Plus a writing prompt

By Leslie Lindsay 

Darkly disturbing psychological thriller about a woman’s kidnapping and the aftereffects.



Bustle Best Books of Fall 2020
Publishers Weekly Top 10 Mysteries & Thrillers of Fall 2020
She Reads Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2020

I loved ROOM (Emma Donoghue) and GONE GIRL (Gillian Flynn) and so when I heard DEAR CHILD (Romy Hausmann, October 6 2020 Flatiron Books) was being compared to BOTH of those books, I knew I had to get my hands on it asap.

A woman flees her windowless shack in the woods, where she and her two children, Hannah and Johnathan, have lived in secret under the rule of a twisted man. Together, Lena and her daughter, Hannah, are in a hit-and-run car accident (though no causalities) in a rare opportunity to escape, found by the local authorities and taken to the hospital. Here is where DEAR CHILD starts, at the hospital, after the fact.

abandoned broken cabin calamity

Photo by Spencer Selover on Pexels.com

Meanwhile, Matthias Beck has been tirelessly searching for his daughter for nearly fourteen years since her disappearance. He’s run into roadblocks and naysayers, including, at times, his own wife, the mother of Lena. But now, he receives a call: she’s been found. He and his wife, Karin, get in the car, they go to the hospital, only to discover that the woman in the hospital bed, though she resembles Lena, is not, in fact, Lena. But Hannah, she looks just like Lena, she must be her biological child. Something is amiss, but what?

“Dear Child is one of the best thrillers I’ve read this year. I finished it in one sitting. It’s flawlessly plotted with a pace that refuses to let the reader come up for air—not that you’d want to.”
—Stephanie Wrobel, bestselling author of Darling Rose Gold

A good deal of plot points, twists, is fine, but the execution in DEAR CHILD felt a bit disjointed, leading to reader confusion and not in a thriller sort of way. I feel the narrative could have been stronger, more precise had the story unfolded in ‘real time,’ rather than a recounting of events that had already occurred. Also, Lena isn’t as young as you might expect. She was abducted as a 23-year old college student. It’s been nearly 14 years, putting the present-day Lena at about 37 years old. I think the story might have had more emotional pull if the protagonist had been younger. But that could just be me.

Here we work backward, puzzling the pieces together, from the POV of multiple, all slightly unreliable characters, culminating in a predictable end, with the exception of one breathless last statement that made me sit up a little straighter.


Think about the structure of DEAR CHILD. It’s told from an after-the-fact POV. Lena has been found. She’s at the hospital following her escape from her captive life in a shack in the woods. She’s injured because she was struck by a vehicle in a hit-and-run. What are the benefits of telling a story this way? What might the pitfalls be? Does this lean toward pantsing or plotting? What about momentum and pacing? Try re-writing the premise with the abduction, rather than the find. 


Artistic cover of book cover designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Follow on Instagram for more like this @leslielindsay1 #alwayswithabook #bookstagram

For more information, to connect with Romy Hausman via social media, or to purchase a copy of DEAR CHILD, please visit:

Order Links: 


I was reminded of several titles as I read, but stand by ROOM and GONE GIRL as leading titles in psychological thrillers involving a kidnapping. But also, Mary Kubica’s THE GOOD GIRL is a superb choice. Others titles that may fall in this warped category of kidnappings gone wrong and psychological turmoil are DARLING ROSE GOLD (Stephanie Wrobel) and THE GIRL BEFORE (Rena Olsen). But in all reality, I think DEAR CHILD rings of a true-crime kind of tale.


Romy Hausmann lives with her family at a remote house in the woods in Stuttgart, Germany. Dear Child is her English-language debut.


Leslie Lindsay is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA (Woodbine House, 2012) with second, updated edition coming fall of 2020 and former Mayo Clinic child/adolescent psychiatric R.N. She is at work on a memoir, about growing up with a mentally ill interior decorator mother and her devolve into psychosis. Leslie’s writing & prose poetry has been published in Pithead ChapelCommon Ground ReviewCleaver Magazine (craft and CNF), The Awakenings Review, The Nervous Breakdown, Ruminate’s The WakingBrave Voices Literary MagazineManifest-StationCoffin Bell Journal, and forthcoming in Semicolon Literary Magazine and The Family Narrative Project. Her cover art was featured on Up the Staircase Quarterly in May 2020, other photography in Another Chicago Magazine (ACM) and Brushfire Literature & Arts Journal and shortlisted for the Manhattan Review. Leslie has been awarded one of the top 1% reviewers on GoodReads and recognized by Jane Friedman as one of the most influential book reviewers. Since 2013, Leslie has interviewed over 700 bestselling and debut authors on her author interview series. Follow her bookstagram posts @leslielindsay1.


Querying MODEL HOME: Motherhood &  Madness 



#alwayswithabook #writing #prompts #bookrecommendations #psychologicalthriller #kidnapping 


[Cover and author image retrieved from Macmillian Books. Artistic cover of book cover designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Follow on Instagram for more like this @leslielindsay1 #alwayswithabook #bookstagram]

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