Hello everyone, and welcome back to The Bookworm’s Fantasy! I hope you’re all doing well. Today I’m posting my review of Lucinda Berry’s incredible psychological thriller, ‘The Perfect Child’. I didn’t have any expectations going into this book, but I absolutely loved it and ended up awarding it 5 stars! It now sits proudly on my “favourites” bookshelf. Keep reading to discover my thoughts…
Christopher and Hannah are a happily married surgeon and nurse with picture-perfect lives. All that’s missing is a child. When Janie, an abandoned six-year-old, turns up at their hospital, Christopher forms an instant connection with her, and he convinces Hannah they should take her home as their own.
But Janie is no ordinary child, and her damaged psyche proves to be more than her new parents were expecting. Janie is fiercely devoted to Christopher, but she acts out in increasingly disturbing ways, directing all her rage at Hannah. Unable to bond with Janie, Hannah is drowning under the pressure, and Christopher refuses to see Janie’s true nature.
Hannah knows that Janie is manipulating Christopher and isolating him from her, despite Hannah’s attempts to bring them all together. But as Janie’s behavior threatens to tear Christopher and Hannah apart, the truth behind Janie’s past may be enough to push them all over the edge.
‘The Perfect Child’ (March 2019) is Lucinda Berry’s fifth novel, following on from Missing Parts (October 2016), ‘Appetite For Innocence’ (April 2017), ‘Phantom Limb’ (July 2017), and ‘Saving Noah’ (September 2017). Since then, she has also written ‘When She Returned’ (October 2019) and ‘The Best Of Friends’ (August 2020). Dr Lucinda Berry is a trauma psychologist and leading researcher in childhood trauma. She uses her clinical experience to write disturbing psychological thrillers. Berry lives in Los Angeles with her family.
The novel has received positive reviews, from the likes of fellow authors Heather Gudenkauf: “A mesmerizing, unbearably tense thriller that will have you looking over your shoulder and sleeping with one eye open” and Minka Kent: “A deep, dark, and dangerously addictive read. All-absorbing to the very end!”
‘The Perfect Child’ follows the lives of married couple Christopher and Hannah, as their lives are turned upside down by foster child Janie. Janie has had a very difficult past, and her presence begins to drive a wedge between Christopher and Hannah. Will Janie succeed in tearing them apart?
The narrative is told from the first-person perspectives of Christopher and Hannah, with each chapter switching between the two. The reader is given a deep insight to their thoughts, feeling and emotions, as they struggle to deal with Janie’s troublesome behaviour. There are also some sections detailing a police interview with social worker Piper. The narrative is really easy to follow, yet still very effective.
My favourite character in the novel is definitely Hannah. Hannah and Christopher have the perfect marriage, but are unfortunately struggling to conceive. Hannah works at the same hospital as her husband, and she loves him more than anything; so when he suggests bringing Janie home, she agrees. However, Janie’s behaviour soon becomes troubling and Hannah is unfortunately the target of all her pent-up anger and aggression. Hannah tries extremely hard to bond with Janie and make the situation work, but Janie’s behaviour begins to significantly affect her mental wellbeing, and Hannah finds herself in a very dark place. Hannah is a loving, caring character and she really doesn’t deserve to suffer. I wished I could give her a hug and tell her everything would be okay! Hannah is a very well-written, three dimensional character, and I felt a great deal of sympathy towards her.
Christopher is a hard-working, successful surgeon. When Janie is brought into the hospital for treatment, Christopher forms an immediate bond with her, and she becomes very attached to him. Wanting to do the right thing and not let Janie become a slave to the social care system, Christopher convinces Hannah to take Janie home with them. Christopher is still on the receiving end of much of Janie’s affection and love, and so he is not as deeply affected by her misbehaviour at first. Although he tries his best to make things work, it soon becomes clear that Christopher and Hannah have different approaches with regards to Janie’s care, and he fails to make this new family structure work. Christopher is another very well-written character.
** TRIGGER WARNING ** (I apologise for any spoilers here.) This novel explores the theme of child abuse and neglect in great detail, and covers some pretty hard-hitting topics. Janie’s behaviour is very disturbing, and she has some extremely complex needs. At times very sad and dark, this novel provides a very deep exploration of childhood trauma, and how trauma can have a detrimental effect on a child’s life. This book isn’t for the faint-hearted, so be warned that the reading experience may be difficult at times.
As the narrative motors onwards, Janie’s behaviour gets even worse. Hannah reaches breaking point, and Christopher isn’t able to support his family in the way he would like. Together, can they make things work? Or is Janie just too much for this loving family to handle?
So, let’s talk about the ending. There’s a dramatic end scene in which tensions reach their peak, and a truly terrible event occurs. It is shocking and saddening, and I simply couldn’t tear my eyes away. Although it’s not exactly pleasant, I did really enjoy the ending, and felt that it tied everything together brilliantly. I don’t want to go into too much detail here as I’m afraid I’ll give it away!
Overall, I highly recommend this novel to those of you who enjoy psychological thrillers, particularly if you are interested in the themes of childhood abuse and trauma. This book has plenty of suspense, a compelling plot and fantastically-written characters – what more could you want?! I simply couldn’t fault this book if I tried, and it now sits proudly on my “favourites” bookshelf. I need to go out and purchase some more of Lucinda Berry’s books as I was just so impressed with this one!
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Happy reading 🙂