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Book Review - Puppet Child by Talia Carner

A Mother's Worst Nightmare

Puppet Child
by
Talia Carner

Published by Mecox Hudson

Review by Jacqueline Bradway


The first time Rachel Belmore thought she saw something odd happening between her husband and their new baby, she wrote it off as a hallucination caused by the sleeping pill her husband, a doctor, had given her to take because it was her "night off" from caring for the baby. A year later, she catches him in the act of sexually molesting their daughter and realizes it had not been a hallucination that first night.

The daughter, Ellie, is now five years old and Rachel is still fighting the court system to stop the abuse. The courts have failed Rachel and Ellie by granting the father overnight visitation where the child is sexually assaulted. All attempts to prove this have failed. Talia Carner paints a convincing picture of the obvious frustration and horror that Rachel suffers at the indifferent hands of the court.

The judge in the case, Judge McGillian, believes himself to be fair and impartial, yet he treats Rachel and other women who appear in his court very harshly. He finds himself in a sticky political situation as Dr. Belmore had treated the governor's son when he was injured a year earlier, and is now calling in all his favors to gain full custody of Ellie, saying the mother is incompetent and prejudiced against him. Meanwhile, the judge's new law clerk, Phil Crawford, has a secret of his own, but has set out to help those who need it the most, the children. He is compassionate to Rachel's plight and urges her to find a solution, any solution, to end Ellie's nightmare.

The system repeatedly fails Rachel's attempts to shield her daughter from harm until ultimately, without any further recourse, she arranges to the child to be taken away to a safe place and goes to jail for withholding the whereabouts. While in jail, Rachel is abused and harassed at the hands of other inmates until the reason for her being there is revealed. From that point on they give her their full support, wishing someone had stood up for them when they were children. Through her own inner strength and the kindness of others, Rachel manages to keep her dignity and ensure that her daughter remains safe.

The story unfolds with many twists and turns, and I found it difficult to put down, despite the heartbreaking subject matter. Talia Carner has written a book that is easy to read and believable in its depictions of the family court system at its worst. The story disturbed me immensely and a week later I can still feel Rachel's frustration and feelings of helplessness. In that sense, the author has succeeded admirably.

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