If you like your stories a little creepy, but not so creepy that you will want to put the book in the freezer, then The Children’s Home by Charles Lambert will be right up your alley.
In The Children’s Home we follow Morgan, heir to a ‘power-empire’, who lives in an unnamed city as a recluse. Morgan hides because he’s disfigured, this being the result of a very dysfunctional childhood. Now that he’s all grown-up, he lives alone in his parents’ house until out of nowhere Engel appears. She’s an angelic nurse, taking care of Morgan the best she can, like a gift send from the heavens. Morgan loves having her around too much to actually wonder who send her. She seems to always have been part of his life, knowing exactly what to do and where to go. But it doesn’t take long until the children start to appear. They come from all over, appearing out of thin air and move into his house. These children are pleasant as well, seem wise beyond their age and vanish whenever Morgan has enough of them. Then around 40 kids later, a wax-model of a woman and a visit to his sister, things turn creepy.
The best thing about The Children’s Home is definitely the atmosphere. The opening chapter mysterious, but setting the scene perfectly. Lambert is definitely a skilled writer and the eeriness that exudes from Morgan’s world is almost tangible. Morgan himself is a little bit of a sad-sack, but understandably so. I loved how passive he was, letting Engel take over his house, adding children left and right while he just sort of sat back and watched her do it. The novel kicks into gear when one of the children get sick and Doctor Crane enters the stage. Morgan at first hides from the doctor, but soon they become friends and Morgan confides that he feels like something strange happens in his house. Together they try to solve the mystery of the children, but the actual story Lambert is telling is beyond these two men. As David – the first child that arrives – tells them: ‘You aren’t so important […] It’s what we do now that matters, not what we are.’
And the children definitely take action, unlike the two grown-ups. The end of the novel is a little bit of a wild ride and moves very quickly after a slow setup. But don’t expect any answers about the children, where they come from and what goes down in that factory they visit. If you like a story that gets neatly wrapped-up and feeds you the information you need, than The Children’s Home will drive you crazy. I’m still not entirely sure what I read and what it all meant, but somehow I feel like I wasn’t supposed to. The sense of mystery is what makes this work strong. Lambert throws in small details here and there that show you that the world he’s describing isn’t ours. Homes are surrounded by fences, cities have ceased to exist and somehow children are needed to make power. I found this novel unsettling – especially the ending – and definitely recommend this if you’re in the mood for something a little creepy that you can read in a day. The story itself might not satisfy you completely, but it will definitely make your skin crawl.
Review Copy attained through Netgalley with special thanks to the publisher Aardvark Bureau.