Lambert is a brilliant writer, and his absorbing new novel, The Children’s Home, is the best literary fiction I have read in some time. Thank you to Scribner and Net Galley for the DRC, which I received free in exchange for an honest review.
We start with Morgan, a bitter recluse rattling around in his immense family mansion, afraid to leave its walls for fear someone will see his face and ridicule him. His sister Rebecca runs the family business, and she hires Engel to serve as housekeeper and cook to him. Moira and David are two children that magically appear at his estate. Unlike normal children, they don’t leave messes lying around, whine, or need to be cleaned up; Morgan notices that whenever he wants to concentrate or not have the children around, they seem to vanish, appearing again when wanted.
Motherhood should be so sweet.
But back to the manse. Soon more children come, first in ones and twos, then in waves. Eventually Morgan can’t tell how many children are on his estate. Investigators show up eager to find that he’s breaking the law; they sniff around and leave without seeing anything. And to the burgeoning household a doctor is added. Morgan wants someone discreet and trustworthy to deal with his medical issues, and soon Dr. Crane is not only making house calls, but has a room of his own. And subtly, the power dynamics start to shift. A seismic change is in the wind.
Morgan doesn’t dare leave the estate. At first, the reader believes it is because he is afraid his appearance will be ridiculed, but then others also mention fear for his safety should he leave the walls of his property. And eventually we see the flipside of all this bitter privilege, the big house with the on call servants and medical care. Because someone has to pay in the end; there’s not enough wealth to go around when the few get so much of it, and we learn what is taking place outside those walls. That said, this is not a simple nod to social justice, but a juicy tale full of surprises.
I won’t take you any farther than that, but I must say that Lambert is a writer of undeniable talent. The Children’s Home is brilliant literary fiction. The allegory is a mite on the heavy handed side, but it doesn’t matter when the spell woven is as magical as it is here. I was expecting something along the lines of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, but this is so much more than that.
Parents may want to be aware that there’s a great deal of violence inherent here. For some adolescents, it will be all the more delicious for it, but it is written for an adult audience, and some parents may want to read it themselves before passing it on to younger folk.
When you come down to it, you want to read it anyway. It comes up for sale January 5, 2016, but you can order it now, and you know you want to!