Book Report: Children? The Novel

Pages: 6 (2659 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1  ·  Topic: Children  ·  Buy This Paper

SAMPLE EXCERPT:

[. . .] She hadn't dared to criticize Carl… but when she made the bed, it wasn't wet, so Lisa hadn't wet the bed" (254). It's very difficult to determine what exactly has happened; the ambiguity with the bed that was soiled or not soiled is disturbing, particularly when the reader considers that Clark has already established pedophilic tendencies with Carl's character. For example, we know that he thinks, "her little tongue was so pink!" (71) and "He wanted so much to get back to the little girl that it was painful" (143).

When Nancy finally runs up the stairs to find Carl smothering one of her children with a plastic bag, we are told that he is "giggling" as he does it to add a sinister air to everything. In the struggle that ensues Clark tells us that, "They fell together clumsily, heavily… His face was next to hers. Thick and white, the features bloated and broadened… Blindly she reached out with all her force and bit the thick jowly cheek" (256). What Clark describes, aside from being appropriately repulsive shows a level of intimacy with darkness and the murky past that the protagonist has to engage in before she can free her kids. For after Nancy bites his cheek, he recoils in pain and she can rip the plastic bag off of Michael's head.

Clark takes things to further extremes as Carl grabs the youngest child, three-year-old Missy and drags her out onto the roof, onto the widows walk, which was covered with a layer of ice. Holding Missy with one hand, he tries to use the child to barter with Nancy so that he can get away. Ironically, the railing crumbles underneath Carl's weight, the same weight that he intentionally gained so that he would be unrecognizable and commit these crimes safely. However, Nancy is able to snatch Missy to safety, catching her by her hair (258). This is also ironic, has hair has been an active motif in the novel, with Nancy cutting and dyeing her hair to reinvent herself and now she's catching the hair of her daughter and also symbolically taking a step towards a life without fear. This is one of the points of the resolution, and one which the novel ends on; Ray tells Nancy that for her birthday he's going to arrange to have her hair colored to its original shade. This is a symbol of her making peace with the past and her own identity.

Another point of the resolution is that Clark allows her protagonist full clearance of accusations. For example, Chief Coffin relays that before pulling Carl Harmon's body out of the water, he admitted to everything, including killing Nancy's mother.

A final small point of the resolution is that we see a glimpse of Nancy's good character. For Clark tells us, "When they got home, Nancy insisted that the television crews and reporter be fed too, and Jonathan had thrown his home open to them" (261). These reporters and television crews were originally there because they wanted to write a story that exposed her for being a murderer. However, Nancy clearly has a very forgiving nature.

Part Four

I would give this book a B. minus. While Clark does a fine job of creating and developing characters and intertwining points of the plot together, there's a great of the book that seems simply derivative. For example, Nancy Harmon's character in its entirety seems for a great part of the book like this well-meaning, helpless female that's a constant victim of her circumstances. Clark makes sure that we're aware of how fair she is, starting from the very beginning of the book, "She was so darn pretty. There were fine lines around those blue eyes, but still you'd never take her for thirty two" (23).

When Nancy's kids are abducted for the second time, Nancy morphs into a helpless lump that can't even defend herself from the please or make any positive action on behalf of finding her children. While it is understandable how this trauma could be shattering her psyche a second time, it would have been nice if readers didn't have to wait until the very end to see her take action.

I felt that the character of Carl was a bit one dimensional. In certain respects, it's too easy to create a character that's simply all evil and use him as your villain. I felt that a character as remorseless and coldblooded as Carl would have had to have been insane. Clark, aside from describing Carl's giggling at inappropriate moments, doesn't really ever show us that he has an unbalanced mind. His actions are clearly unbalanced, yes, but there's nothing to support that from his thought processes. Furthermore, Carl's motivations for murder and revenge upon Nancy were never completely elucidated or believable.

While the book has some clever, vivid imagery, characters and situations, there are parts of the book that seem like a soap opera. For example, when Nancy is confronting Carl, who's dragging her daughter Missy onto the roof, she says, "Don't do it. Carl, you hate water. You don't want water to cover your face. You know that. That's why I should have known you didn't commit suicide. You couldn't drown yourself" (258). That sort of revelatory statement that neatly ties everything up during a completely crucial moment in the plot, is very evocative of daytime television and rather unbelievable.

Lastly, Clark does do a superior job of creating very detailed minor characters and surroundings. From the moment that you begin the book, you have a dramatic view of the surrounding Cape Cod environment. For example, Nancy thinks about her first day on the Cape, "… she'd made coffee and sat by the window. It had been a clear, brilliant day -- the cloudless sky purple-blue; the bay tranquil and still; the only movement the arc of sea gulls hovering near the fishing boats" (30). Minor characters abound in the book and they're as lifelike and specific as the major characters. Dorothy has salt and pepper hair and a matching suede coat (138). Jonathan Knowles had a wife who liked to shop a great deal (58). These types of details make for a much more colorful book.

Part Five

Five Category Outline of Where are the Children?

This Book made me:

A. Wish that I could live on Cape Cod.

B. Feel that at times I was looking out over the ocean.

C. Decide that someday soon I should visit Cape Cod.

D. Wonder about people from my past I've lost touch with.

E. See that confronting your past is important.

F. Believe that in the end everything will perhaps work out okay.

G. Realize that people are defined by their actions.

H. Hope that someday I'll be able to buy a house on Cape Cod.

Works Consulted

Clark, Mary Higgins. Where are the Children? New York: Simon and Schuster 1999.

Kitchen Privileges: A… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Children? The Novel.  (2010, December 3).  Retrieved June 20, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/children-novel/1758555

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"Children? The Novel."  Essaytown.com.  December 3, 2010.  Accessed June 20, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/children-novel/1758555.