Dead Aiden Returns

Silent Child by Sarah A. Denzil might be a book of horror for parents. Emma was a single parent living with her parents and son Aiden in the small town of Bishoptown, population 400. It was said to be the second smallest village in England and was separated into two parts by the river Ouse. On one of those life-changing days, Emma had to cross the river to pick up six-year-old Aiden from school. It was raining so hard that many villagers concluded the bridge joining the village together would soon be swept away. Hurrying to cross the bridge before it was too late, Emma lost her balance due to high waves and landed on a riverbank on the side where the school was located. The river had taken her phone and one boot. Still, she had made it to the school where she met a very worried teacher and former friend, Amy. Near tears, Amy told Emma that Aiden had wandered off somewhere. The search was on; almost everyone in the village participated.

Aiden’s red coat was found in the river three days later. Aiden was not found. Seven years later Emma had Aiden declared dead. Ten years later, Emma was working with Amy Perry, Aiden’s teacher when he disappeared. Emma was at the stage of acceptance. Aiden had drowned. It was time to move on. And Emma had moved on. She had married Jake, her former art teacher when she had been in high school. Emma was his student. He was twenty-eight years old. She was again pregnant and looking forward to giving birth to a daughter. This was her first marriage. Rob, the father of Aiden hadn’t wanted to marry the thirteen-year-old pregnant Emma. Although Rob still lived in the village, Emma had no contact with her baby father. Still, Emma had moved on, she was happy, life was good.

Then the sixteen-year-old Aiden appeared in a nearby hospital. Police informed Emma that Aiden had been found abandoned and walking in a nearby forest. Aiden did not speak. Not one word. Aiden appeared to occasionally listen to conversations around him. Or he would not listen to anything around him but would sit in an almost catatonic state as he watched cartoons on any nearby television, a device that captured his attention so much that sometimes he would stare at the television even when it was not turned on. Obviously, huge amounts of time would be needed for therapy. Months and years might be required to overcome the trauma and physical effects of malnutrition. Aiden limped, he had poor posture, he slipped in and out of fugue states.

While Aiden underwent various therapies, life for other characters in the novel went on. With a background of Aiden’s silence, Emma recalled and maintained a love for her son. Emma was confident that Aiden would “return,” and she intended to be there for him when he did. Aiden moved into the home occupied by Jake and Emma who was then eight months pregnant. Aiden maintained silence but seemed to follow instructions given calmly and patiently by Jake, instructions such as “Watch television” and Go to your room, it is time for bed.” Initially, Emma was amazed by Jake’s patience with Aiden. Later, there were disagreements as Jake voiced concern for the safety of their soon-to-be-born daughter. His concerns became increasingly stronger in a way that correlated with the visits to their home by Rob, Aiden’s birth father. Rob, who was never overly concerned with Aiden as a six-year-old, looked forward to making up for his mistakes with his now teenage son. Jake did not appreciate the help or the frequent communications with an ex-wife that was his present wife. Increasing tensions among adults led to predictable acting out by the silent although physically expressive Aiden. Keeping scissors and knives away from Aiden became a priority.

So where had Aiden been for ten years? Police determined that it could not have been far away from the small town where everyone knew everyone. Whoever had taken him, wherever he had been, once the mystery was solved it would be a surprise for everyone. The kidnapper and captor for ten years lived among them.

This is a novel I had to read in its entirety to appreciate it. Looking at a typical organization for a novel of Beginning (one fourth) Middle (one half) and Conclusion (one fourth), I found the first part enthralling and horrible. What could possibly be worse than the death of a child? The reappearance of the same child, mute and mildly catatonic, ten years later after having been declared dead might fill the category of something worse. The middle portion of the book has been described by many authors as the place where novels die. This is the place where the reader might abandon the book. This part is where boredom lurks. I found this to be true of this book. I felt it dragged on and on. But the mystery intrigued me and I slogged forth. The conclusion mirrored the first part; it was fantastic with many surprises. After the conclusion and a bit of reflection, I believe the middle portion of the novel was essential. If I had not been dragged through some relationship struggles I found unexciting, I would have criticized the last portion of the novel of being almost a non-sequitur. Denzil did an outstanding job presenting the context necessary for the brilliant ending.

I can’t resist making a comment about how I discovered this book. I didn’t. It was recommended to me by Gwynne (if the spelling is wrong I am going to hear about it) a university student in one of my classes. I started this blog about two years go with an objective of writing brief reviews that would interest students enough that they would read the full novels or collections of short stories. Overall, I have not satisfied my objective. After two years, Gwynne is the first student to make a book recommendation. I am happy that I can give this five Amazon stars due to the unusual (for me) organization. It is the first novel I have read which was, in turn, exciting, boring, exciting again and then prompted reflection that led me to conclude the seemingly boring parts were also good.

Silent Child sells for USD 3.99 but is free on Kindle Unlimited. I am looking for further novels by Sarah A. Denzil.

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