Thursday, October 27, 2011


David Lamb kidnaps the little girl with good intentions, and for all the best reasons.  He wants to teach her a lesson about how dangerous life really is, a lesson that will protect her from those dangers for the rest of her days.  The unknown narrator of Lamb, Bonnie Nadzam’s debut novel, puts it this way:

So you see, none of this was planned.  This is the kind of unforeseeable map that arises one bright little city at a time.  It is about letting go of the clench in your forehead and letting your heart steer.  And it isn’t as easy as it sounds.”

Lamb is minding his own business when the little girl, dared to do so by her two friends, brazenly walks up to him and asks for a cigarette.  On his way home from his father’s funeral, and still a little numb from that experience, Lamb’s original reaction when the freckle-faced little girl approaches him is to feel sorry for her.  Then he decides, with little Tommie’s complicity, to teach her friends a lesson by making it appear that he is kidnapping her by force. 

“So you see, none of this was planned.”

Lamb considers himself a good man.  When he looks at Tommie, he sees a little girl from a poor background and, most likely, from a broken home, who has no future unless she changes her ways soon.  He wants to help her, and he thinks he can do that by taking her on a road trip from Chicago to the remoteness of the Rocky Mountains.  Lamb, a fiftyish failure at his job, his marriage, and most other personal relationships, believes he still has something to offer this child.

Bonnie Nadzam
Bonnie Nadzam will make many a reader uncomfortable with her effort to get inside the head of a man like David Lamb, a man who spends as much time trying to convince himself that his motives are pure as he does trying to convince his young victim of the same.  Lamb, however, is not so self-deluded that he cannot see himself through the eyes of other adults he and his “niece” encounter along the way.  As the days roll by and Lamb begins to worry about how he will ultimately extricate himself from the situation, and as Tommie allows him a greater and greater degree of physical intimacy, the reader’s tension will build to an almost unbearable level.

Although Lamb is not an explicitly sexual novel, it is most definitely a disturbing one.  The source of the book’s horror is its reminder of how often evil is motivated by good intentions, and how easy it is for a predator like David Lamb to make himself unrecognizable to the rest of us.  Fair Warning: Bonnie Nadzam has written an impressive debut novel, but it is one that will not be quickly, or easily, forgotten. 

Rated at: 4.0 

(Review Copy provided by Publisher)


  1. It's not the easiest book to read, Susan...that's what makes it such a powerful and stunning debut novel, I think.

  2. Sounds like a tough read but one worth delving into.

  3. I won't soon forget this one, Kathleen. And it seems like a strange theme for a debut novel from a young woman...