Tag: The Last Child

#BestsellerCode100: A Writer’s Review of The Last Child

Let’s take a look at The Last Child by John Hart from a writer’s perspective. (The discussion began here).

Note:  Post contains spoilers.

The Last Child* by John Hart

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  Johnny Merrimon’s twin sister disappeared a year ago when she was seen being dragged into a van. Now everyone seems to think she’s dead. Thirteen-year-old Johnny can’t give up on her, though, so he decides to start a search of his own. Will he be able to figure out what happened to her without becoming a victim himself?

1. Character Development

John Hart has made some incredibly interesting choices regarding characters in The Last Child. His protagonist is a thirteen-year-old boy named Johnny Merrimon, even though a teenage protagonist  is unusual for a novel intended for adults. The antagonist is a rich bully named Ken Holloway who is abusing Johnny’s mother. She would probably be best described as an impact character. Johnny’s sidekick is a boy his age, Jack Cross.

This book is an excellent example of how to write a contagonist. If you are not familiar with the term, a contagonist is a character who is on the protagonist’s side, but often gets in the way or meddles preventing the protagonist from easily reaching his or her goal. Reading the blurb on the back, you might assume Detective Clyde Hunt will mentor Johnny during his search for his missing sister. That is not the case. Instead his well-intentioned interference leads Johnny to go underground and to take bigger risks.

What did you think of the teenage protagonist? Would an older protagonist have worked as well?

Dialogue

The author’s strength in this novel is his descriptions. I love how the dialogue flows with, between, and around the action.

At twenty-five minutes after six, Hunt’s phone rang. It was his son. Hunt recognized the number and flinched. With all that was going on he’d not thought of the boy. Not even once. “Hello, Allen.”
“You didn’t come home”
Hunt moved back onto the porch. He looked at the flat, gray sky, pictured his son’s face. “I know,” he said. “I’m sorry.”
“You coming home for breakfast?”
Hunt’s guilt intensified. The kid was trying to make things right between them. “I can’t.

Doesn’t that flow beautifully?

sandhill carolina setting The Last Child

(Photo by Jack Culpepper, USFWS, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license and retrieved from Wikimedia.)

2. Setting

The Last Child is set in the Sandhills region of southeastern North Carolina. The setting plays a big part in this book, and the descriptions are rich and active.

The trail bent to the high ground and Levi used his free hand to pull on roots and saplings to get him up the slick clay. He dug in the edges of his shoes for traction. When he reached the high, flat stretch, he stopped to catch his breath; and when he started again, the river lights winked out behind the willows and the ash, the sweet gums and the long-fingered pines.

3. Themes in The Last Child

Because this is a genre thriller, we might not expect the themes to be as well developed as we might find in literary fiction. Once again, John Hart surprises us. Interwoven is a very strong theme of faith.  When his sister first went missing, Johnny prayed for three things. When those things didn’t seem to be realized, he explored alternatives, even at the risk of alienating his friends and family.

Johnny looked at his friend, and knew, without a doubt, that Jack could never understand Johnny’s desperate need to believe in something more powerful than his own two hands.

4. Voice

As said previously, the authors voice is like the salad dressing on the salad because it adds flavor. John Hart’s voice is rich and savory. It is distinctive, yet at the same time easy to read. In fact, it reminds me of rolling hills, lilting up and gliding down. Or gentle waves, spilling over and coursing on and on.

Conclusion: 

From a writer’s perspective, John Hart uses tools from the writer’s toolbox in some innovative ways. He offers many things to study and emulate.

I want to read more books by John Hart.

What about you? What are your thoughts?

 

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What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

The next book is number 95. The Mill River Recluse by Darcie Chan (2011) – Discussion begins January 16, 2017

#BestsellerCode100: Reader’s Review The Last Child by John Hunt

Let’s take a look at The Last Child by John Hunt from a Reader’s Perspective.

This post contains spoilers.

John Hunt’s The Last Child*

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

The Last Child, by John Hunt, is the fifth book we have read for the 100 Bestsellers List reading challenge.  Like Shutter Island, the first book we read, The Last Child is a Mystery / Thriller, but that’s where the similarity ends.   In the first book, U.S. Marshall Teddy Daniels, is sent to Shutter Island, a hospital for the criminally insane, to locate a lost inmate.  By the end of the book, though, we come away uncertain about who Teddy really is – the strong, capable law enforcement agent or an inmate himself who created his own reality as a way to deflect dealing with a tragedy in his life.

In The Last Child, Johnny Merrimon is a thirteen-year-old boy who has endured unimaginable losses and pain over the past year – his twin sister, Alyssa, was kidnapped and never found; his father, unable to handle the grief, ran off; his mother, Katherine, has withdrawn into a haze of drugs and alcohol; and his mother’s boyfriend physically and emotionally abuses both Katherine and Johnny.  And yet, through it all, Johnny exhibits perseverance, dogged determination, and an inner strength that seems to elude most of the adults in his life.  Johnny believes that his twin is still alive, and when a second girl is kidnapped, Johnny redoubles his search for her.  This search unearths dark secrets in this small North Carolinian town, secrets others are willing to kill to keep.

Author John Hunt covers a number of adult topics through the character of young Johnny – grief, abuse, sex predators, family love, hope, faith, friendship, sin, courage – topics we don’t want to think that a thirteen-year-old should have to deal with, and yet I found Johnny,  both his thoughts and actions, very believable.  I felt his pain, understood his determination, marveled at his unfailing belief that his sister was still alive, and hoped beyond hope that he would be able to find her.

I won’t reveal the outcome, but I did appreciate the fact that all the loose ends were neatly tied up at the end of the book.  Likely that is one reason I thought The Last Child was the best of the five bestsellers we have read so far – no open-ended, “what to you think happened?” ending.

I also really appreciated Hunt’s ability to write about his native state of North Carolina with such great intimacy.  Many scenes in the book take place in the countryside – riverbeds, forests, abandoned homesteads, swamps, old cemeteries – and his writing took me back to childhood hikes through woods, wading in the stream behind our house, and finding refuge in a nearby cemetery.  He evoked the smell of a decaying forest bed, the slippery danger of moss along the rocky stream, the sudden warning silences of birds in the trees.  The only other author I’ve read recently that really made me “feel” the setting was Pat Conroy with his Prince of Tides.

The Last Child most certainly belongs on this list of 100 Bestsellers, and it will most certainly NOT be the last book I read by John Hunt.  I’ve added all of his books to my Goodreads “want to read” list and intend to find the time to read them soon.

What did you think of The Last Child? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Related posts:

  1. The Last Child landing page
  2. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

After you finish the book, you might want to drop by to take our survey.

 

You can also join us on social media:

Do you have suggestions for ways to improve this reading challenge? We’d love to hear them.

_________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

The next book is number 95 on the list, The Mill River Recluse by Darcie Chan (2011) – Discussion begins January 16, 2017.

#BestsellerCode100 Discussion: The Last Child by John Hart

Time to start the discussion of our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 list, The Last Child by John Hart. This heart-wrenching thriller won the Edgar Award for Best Novel in 2010.

Note:  Post does not contain spoilers.

The Last Child* by John Hart

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  Johnny Merrimon’s twin sister disappeared a year ago when she was seen being dragged into a van. Now everyone seems to think she’s dead. Thirteen-year-old Johnny can’t give up on her, though, so he decides to start a search of his own. Will he be able to figure out what happened to her without becoming a victim himself?

Publisher: Minotaur Books (March 9, 2010)
ISBN-10: 0312642369
ISBN-13: 978-0312642365

bestseller-code-100-96-John-Hart-Last-Child

Did you read John Hart’s  The Last Child? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line or paragraph of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective
  4. After you finish the book, you might want to drop by to take our survey.

You can also join us on social media:

Do you have suggestions for ways to improve this reading challenge? We’d love to hear them.

Have you written about The Last Child? Feel free to add a link to your review or discussion here.


__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

The next book is number 95. The Mill River Recluse by Darcie Chan (2011) – Discussion begins January 16, 2017

#BookBeginnings The Last Child by John Hart

Today we’re highlighting The Last Child by John Hart for Book Beginnings on Fridays. Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. The premise to share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it.

 

book-beginnings-button

The Last Child* by John Hart

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  Johnny Merrimon’s twin sister disappeared a year ago when she was seen being dragged into a van. Now everyone seems to think she’s dead. Thirteen-year-old Johnny can’t give up on her, though, so he decides to start a search of his own.

First Sentence of the Prologue:

Asphalt cut the country like a scar, a long, hot burn of razor-black.

Discussion: 

Doesn’t it sound like this book is going to be intense?

I recently read A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard. which is her memoir about how she was dragged into a van and held many years by a sexual predator. It will be interesting to see if there are any parallels in this novel.

Did anyone else notice that John Hart named his main character Johnny? Do you know of any other books where the main character has the same or a similar name to the author?

I’m also curious about the protagonist being a thirteen-year-old boy, which is a bit unconventional for an adult novel. Young protagonists are more common in middle grade and young adult fiction.

There is a police detective working on the case, too. I wonder how the two will interact. Is Detective Hunt a mentor? What about a detective who is searching for someone being named Hunt? Sounds like John Hart is a bit playful when it comes to naming his characters.

Can you tell I’m excited to be reading this one?

What do you think?

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What are we reading next for The Bestseller Code challenge?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

The next book is number 96, The Last Child by John Hart (2009) – Discussion begins January 2, 2017

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