Holy hell, what a ride.
I don’t remember where I first heard about The Only Child or how it ended up in my Overdrive account, but I went into the novel blind. I didn’t know anything about it. Would it be a family drama? A murder mystery?
After a couple pages, I was sure I knew what was going to come of this. It would be a murder mystery and our main character, Lily would find love or something along the way. I should have learned my lesson from underestimating The Girl On The Train last summer. Instead of the competent, but unmemorable novel I was expecting, I was blown away by how deep this rabbit hole went.
The Only Child is a wonderful hybrid of mystery, horror, and historical novel and had moments that were genuinely frightening to me. As Lily was drawn deeper into the mystery that is at the core of the novel, I found myself wondering if I would do something differently in her position. It plays with the tropes of the horror novels and movies, toying with them in order to make something new.
Instead, let’s call it a thriller, one that wears some of the trappings of classic monster novels, but is something uniquely its own.
Lily is as strong a protagonist as we could ask for, traveling a strange road that she’s unsure if she wants to continue on. Her story starts simply enough. It’s another day at the mental hospital that she works at and she is called in to talk to a patient who has refused to give his name. From there, we are taken on a journey that spans decades and country upon country.
The Only Child hit all the right notes for me, including somehow seeing the raised eyebrow I gave the book when it described the attraction between father and daughter. It was like Andrew Pyper knew what I would be picking apart and had already woven a way around that.
The one real complaint I have about this novel is that it is niche and because of that, a little hard to get into.
You need to be interested in mysteries, monsters, present-tense narratives, and not put off by historical sections which are strewn throughout the book. Because of that, I wasn’t sure what kind of experience it was that I was getting and my mind would need to readjust. Are we in the present or the past? Is this our regular narrative? Oh no, it’s letter time.
The surreal nature of the novel made it so reality and dreams were blurred, but that also had be going back once or twice to reread. The clues could have been a bit more pronounced.
That doesn’t change my thoughts on the novel at all though and I would highly recommend The Only Child to anyone who wants a read that will drag them along for the ride.
The most enjoyably tense retcon I’ve ever read.