The Other Child, by Pirkko Rytkonen (2017)
Emma Jorgens’ outwardly stable life sits on a shaky foundation. She and her husband, Kent, are each wrapped up in their own lives and drifting apart. She has overindulged their fourteen-year-old daughter, Becky, whose entitled attitude is growing stronger by the day.
And Emma has a secret that could destroy everything she’s gained.
As a teenager, newly-arrived from Sweden, wide-eyed and impressionable, she fell for her employers’ son and had a baby. She was tricked into a closed adoption, so the records are sealed, but she’s never stopped wondering about her infant son.
Emma and Kent have created a basement apartment for some extra income. Their first tenant is a university student recommended by a friend – a young man named Mathias Smith.
It doesn’t take Emma long to realize Mathias is her son, and they begin a complicated attempt at a relationship. Mathias is frustrated because he wants to meet his birth father, who doesn’t know he exists.
Emma’s afraid to tell her husband the truth, but she’s out of time because the birth father is running for office and the tabloids are digging up whatever they can throw at him.
Emma and Mathias are each struggling, mentally spiralling into dark places because of their stress. Mathias’ health is deteriorating, too, and Emma’s so wrapped up in him that her husband and daughter feel abandoned.
The Other Child is an account of a secret finally exposed, and the emotional fallout that must come before any chance of a happy ending.
The author clearly knows her main characters well, but at times I was confused about what was happening because I needed more of a lead-in to orient me in the scene or I needed another clue to help me understand a character’s behaviour.
Pirkko Rytkonen has written an emotionally-complex novel that dares to address hard issues about relationships, secrets, and drug addiction. The Other Child is her first novel. Her writing theme is “Grace Through the Journey.” For more about the author and her work, and to read her blog entries, visit pirkkorytkonen.com.
[Advance review copy provided by the author.]