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review: The Child Who by Simon Lelic

Written By: Word Nerd - Feb• 28•12

The Child Who: A Novel

Simon Lelic

Pengin Boooks USA/fiction

Release Date: February 28, 2011

A chance phone call throws the biggest murder case in southern England into the hands of provincial attorney Leo Curtice. Twelve-year-old Daniel Blake stands accused of murdering an eleven-year-old girl. But who is truly responsible when one child kills another? As Curtice sets out to defend the indefensible, he soon finds himself pitted against an enraged community calling for blood. When the build-up of pressure takes a sinister turn, Curtice begins to fear for his wife and young daughter’s safety and wonders if he must choose between his family and the life of a damaged child.

This was a very difficult book for me to read.  The descriptions of Daniel are heart-wrenching and the pain of the characters radiates like heat from the pages.

I think one of the reasons I found it so disturbing is because it forced me to think about something I would rather not- child criminals.  A recent local case centers around a 12 year old and two 14 year olds who pushed a young man to his death in front of a train because he would not give up his Ipod.  As I listened to the reports and discussion surrounding what should happen to the perpetrators, I was silently thankful that it was not my decision to make.  How can you look at a child and sentence them to life in prison? How can you look at someone who killed in cold blood and think about setting them free?  Lelic addresses this weighty issue with care, never letting us forget that while he is a killer, Daniel is still just a child in every respect.

As the story unfolds it is evident that Daniel’s crime is akin to dropping a stone in a pond- the splash in the middle subsides almost immediately, but the ripples go on and on, reaching areas far beyond the original stone.  How many lives will be destroyed by the criminal impulsivity of a lone child?

My verdict: Read it.  Think about it. Talk about it. You’ll be glad you did.






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