Puppet Child, by Talia Carner

Nine stars

What would you do if you knew your ex-spouse was molesting your five year-old? That’s the question that Talia Carner poses to readers in the early stages of this explosive book. Rachel Belmore knew there was a problem with her husband, Dr. Wes Belmore, from the time their daughter was a baby. After an alarming event that Rachel witnessed at the crib-side of young Ellie, the couple split, but Dr. Belmore’s actions did not stop. Rachel began proceedings to limit her ex-husband’s access, trying to have him labelled a paedophile, but the courts would only take incremental steps. Distraught, Rachel turned to the only power she had, to refuse Wes access to Ellie, in violation of the court order. Even when Ellie did have to go, she would scream, returning after the access with mysterious injuries and bruises, sometimes to her vagina. When Ellie admitted that her father enjoyed playing ‘The Zoo Game’, Rachel could take it no longer and turned to her attorney for help. However, the Family Court judge refused to accept the pleas being made, sure that Rachel had overdramatised them. With little else to do, Rachel took matters into her own hands, seeking to protect Ellie, even if it would endanger her own freedom in the eyes of the court. Working to save her daughter at any cost, Rachel turned to family and friends, as well as an unusual source to help protect Ellie. However, Dr. Wes Belmore was not without resources of his own and would do whatever it took to ensure Ellie comes back to him. Part legal battle, part family struggle, Talia Carner pushes the reader to the limits of what they can stomach when it comes to child abuse and molestation, while Lady Justice seems to have been shelved during an election year. Highly recommended for those who enjoy a legal and courtroom battle, but not for the faint of heart when it comes to the protection of the most vulnerable.

This book was recommended to me by a friend who could not speak highly enough about its story. Working for Child Protection, it is all too common that cases such as those described in this novel cross my path, but I have tried not to become too involved as to skew my outlook on all custodial arrangements or cases of abuse. Being a parent as well, this story kicks you in the gut (and teeth), forcing you to read and try not to believe that anyone could do this to their own child. Carner’s descriptive power is strong and pushes the story off the written page and into the realm of reality. I found myself flipping back regularly to see if this were a piece of fiction or based on real events. Her detailed narrative about the strain of the abuse (thankfully for many, there is not too much overt description) as well as the courtroom battles left me feeling as though I were in the middle of events unfolding before me. The characters brought much to the story, particularly those at the forefront of the plot. I found myself pitying Rachel and hating Wes repeatedly, all while I begged that something could be done to save Ellie, even when the justice system would not. The twists and turns in the story left me surprised, as this is by no means a cookie cutter narrative, though there were some times that foreshadowing and foreboding left me able to see what might lurk around the corner. The impact of Carner’s writing left me wanting more, but also full-up with all the horrors bestowed on young Ellie, if that makes sense. I found the ongoing legal battles to my liking, as that is a genre that I always enjoy, but also some of the great backstory that shows the world still spinning and life not taking a hiatus even when tragedy strikes. Carner’s style left me wanting to see what else she has penned and hoping that many will find this book and be able to see through some of the disturbing content to find the underlying theme, that the law is not always in sync with what is just. After reading this book, if I needed any reminder of that, it’s become readily apparent.

Kudos, Madam Carner, for this sensational piece. I cannot thank you enough for putting these ideas to paper and I will tell anyone who might listen that this is a must-read.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons