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No Child of Mine    by Susan Lewis order for
No Child of Mine
by Susan Lewis
Order:  USA  Can
Arrow, 2013 (2012)
Hardcover, Softcover, Paperback, Audio, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Susan Lewis's No Child of Mine is the gripping story of highly a committed social worker, Alex Lake, with a tragic past. Alex becomes more and more embroiled in the case of a mute, but engaging child, three-year-old Ottilie Wade, as her own life disintegrates.

Alex has regular nightmares about the time her Romanian father (involved in a human-trafficking ring) slaughtered her grandparents, her aunt, her aunt's boyfriend and her four-year-old brother. Though her mother also survived, Alex was adopted (for her own safety) by a young clergyman, Douglas Lake, and his wife Myra. Alex is close to her adoptive sister Gabby and adored Douglas, but always felt unwanted by Myra.

As the novel opens, both elder Lakes have died and Alex is living in the Mulgrove Vicarage with Jason. Though he's still married, they met after his wife had left him. Alex loves him, though she's often frustrated by his consistently giving in to his wife's demands where anything to do with their children is involved. Alex works hard at her job but also enjoys directing a local theater group, which takes up much of her spare time.

Alex first spots small Ottilie in a park with her father. Immediately drawn to the child, she finds the father odd and they stick in her mind. Susan Lewis gives readers glimpses of Ottilie's terrible childhood long before Alex starts to worry about it. Rejected by her fragile, addicted mother since her brother's death, Ottilie has too much of her father's attention.

After her office receives an anonymous tip about the Wade family, Alex visits them herself. The parents claim that Ottilie is very shy. Though nothing is visible on the surface (and the dad is a well respected deputy headmaster), she gets social services wheels slowly rolling to ensure that Ottilie is seen by a pediatrician and that she attends a nursery school.

Ottilie's situation steadily worsens as Alex's concerns rise, but there's little that the law allows her to do without proof. At the same time, her personal life disintegrates - Jason returns to his wife and family; Gabby decides to sell the family home (which was left to her alone); and cutbacks are anticipated at work. As all this builds to a crisis, Alex's mother makes contact and Alex does something impulsive and very dangerous.

No Child of Mine is a gripping, emotional tale that will make readers root for bighearted Alex and small, damaged Ottilie. Though the ending is a happy one, it's not necessarily happy ever after. Fortunately readers can find out what happens next in the sequel, Don't Let Me Go, which is just as good as this first novel.

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