The Stranger on the Train

It’s not easy being a single parent, and whether she was prepared for it or not, Emma Turner became one. Without parental guidance or a good upbringing to teach her how to be a parent, Emma struggles the best she can with her son, Ritchie. Then one day, out of her own carelessness, Ritchie is abducted, and Emma is thrown into a nightmare of trying to convince police her son is missing and that she had not harmed him. With a history of depression, isolation and homicidal tendencies, Emma’s case does not look good.

I really enjoyed reading The Stranger on the Train, an impressive first novel by Annie Taylor. I kept picturing Emma being played by the actress Julianne Moore. This is a story about something that can happen to any parent. Yes, Emma was careless and even a little stupid at the beginning of the story, but all parents have those moments. No parent is perfect. We make mistakes and, at the worst possible time, let our guard down. Being a parent of a toddler means constantly being on your toes and watching out for dangers, especially in a public place like a train station. But sometimes we space out or let our guard down and it’s in that exact moment we lose our child. This is what happened for Emma. Of course she was tired and even a little cranky, factors that contributed to her carelessness. And in the one moment she thinks she can trust someone, it turns out to be the wrong person. Of course, I would have shown more of a backbone and taken my child from the stranger’s arms. When you’re a parent and faced with either protecting your child or avoiding hurting someone’s feelings, then you’re gonna have to hurt someone’s feelings! But Emma tried to be nice and it cost her. She definitely struggles with her guilt and I really felt for her when she was wishing she had her mom to help her when she needed her the most. But not only is this experience a nightmare for Emma to get through, but it also turns out to be a wake-up call.

A stranger from the train station, Rafe Townsend, tries to help Emma but she keeps pushing him away, convinced she can handle things on her own. Her ex turned his back on her so she thinks Rafe will do the same, too. She can’t rely on anyone. She should’ve known better than to trust anyone. So she makes this her fight. And this was ultimately why Ritchie was abducted in the first place: Emma had no one. They had no connections, no social circles and no close friends. They weren’t a part of any groups or religious institutions. Emma had tried to do it all by herself but she learns she can’t live her life, and Ritchie’s life, that way. She realizes she needs people. And she definitely ends up relying on a lot of people now: Police, a social worker, psychiatrist, medical staff and a legal aid to help her get through this difficult time.

This was a highly suspenseful novel that kept me turning the pages. The characters were so true-to-life and the story was definitely plotted out well. It’s definitely a story that made me cling to my own young son dearly and promise myself to always watch out for him. The Stranger on the Train was an unforgettable tale of one mother’s worst fear becoming a reality and the fight she must endure to bring her child back home. Brilliant!

Book Blurb for The Stranger on the Train

A mother’s worst nightmare: the subway doors close with her baby son still on the train. In this suspenseful debut novel, a woman goes to unimaginable lengths to get her child back.

A struggling, single mother, Emma sometimes wishes that her thirteen-month-old son Ritchie would just disappear. Then, one quiet Sunday evening, after a sinister encounter on the London Underground—Ritchie does just that.

Emma immediately reports his abduction to the police but there she faces a much worse situation than she ever imagined. Why do the police seem so reluctant to help her? And why do they think she would want hurt her own child?

If Emma wants Ritchie back, she’ll have to find him herself. With the help of a stranger named Rafe, the one person who seems to believe her, Emma sets off in search of her son. She is determined to find Ritchie no matter what it takes…but who exactly is the real enemy here?

With dark twists and intertwining narratives, The Stranger on the Train is an unforgettable novel of psychological suspense that you will keep you guessing until the shattering finale.

Night Owl Reviews Oct, 2014 5.00