Summary and book reviews of Puppet Child by Talia Carner

Puppet Child

By Talia Carner

Puppet Child
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  • Hardcover: Nov 2002,
    260 pages.
    Paperback: Sep 2002,
    260 pages.

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About this Book

Book Summary

The most profound human experience is being put to the test.


Rachel Belmore is a poised, determined, yet vulnerable advertising executive fighting to bar her charming former husband, Dr. Wesley Belmore, from molesting their five-year-old daughter, Ellie. Caught in a nightmarish justice system, Rachel's odyssey takes a turn for the worse when she loses her battle in the court of Judge McGillian. The judge, a gregarious man who believes that he applies the law without prejudice, is nevertheless trapped in his biases, which throw him into the eye of a media storm.

His young, easy-going law clerk, Phil Crawford, hides a dark secret as he sets out on a mission to change the fate of children betrayed by the justice system. The compassionate Phil forces his way into Rachel's plight, but fails to dissuade the Judge from his harsh viewing of her case.

To save Ellie, Rachel must take the law into her hands and suffer the consequences.

Against the backdrop of media frenzy, corporate indifference, political corruption, family treachery, terrorism and judicial callousness, the story unfolds in blazingly sure-penned prose to reveal loyalty, the kindness of strangers, devotion, passion, and friendship. In a riveting tale of surprising twists, Puppet Child is a moving tribute to a mother who remains dignified, honest and loving as she changes the rules.


Rachel Belmore was jolted from a dream, awash with dread. "The baby!" the words crashed against her temples. Her breathing came in gasps.

Still groggy from the pill Wes had given her, she sat upright in bed and listened. No sound reached her. Wes, careful not to disturb her, must have slipped out of bed and closed the bedroom door she insisted on keeping open.

She dropped her head back on the pillow. Since Ellie's birth eleven months before, Rachel's sleep only skirted the periphery of dreams. The night before, she had lain in the dark next to the sleeping Wes, her ears attuned to any rustle coming from the nursery, her tense body ready to leap with the slightest new sound--or after a prolonged silence.

"How do you expect to keep up your strength without sleep?" Wes asked in the morning when she dashed out the door for a nine o'clock client meeting. She had been up since seven, feeding and playing with Ellie. "Certainly not with a full-time career."


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Reading Guide
  1. Rachel did not see a "red flag" in the fact that Wes did not visit his daughter from his first marriage. She regarded his fury over that situation as a sign of his love for that child. Should his behavior have tipped her off to his deviant personality? Is it natural for a woman in love, even an intelligent, sophisticated woman, to be taken in by a man’s charm and status?

  2. Throughout Puppet Child, Rachel makes several promises to Ellie, with the full intention of keeping them. ("Cross my heart and hope to die...
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Media Reviews
IndoLink Book Review

In a wrenching race against time, the safety of one child becomes entangled in the theatrics of New York Family Court, bottled-up family dynamics, and the pressure of the political machine. This is a sensitively crafted, solidly researched novel that carries the cold ring of truth about the judicial system and impels the reader to hang on to find out who will win in the struggle over Ellie.

The Times-Beacon-Record

A passionate book that is hard to put down…. The book lends itself to provoking discussion... [Carner's] style of writing is the stuff of TV dramas.

Midwest Book Review

The debut novel of Talia Carner, Puppet Child is a socially issues narrative revealing the weaknesses and blind ineptitude of the American family court system. Rachel Belmore is a 34-year-old advertising executive and mother who must struggle to defend her young daughter against the sexual depredations of her husband, and subsequently finds herself losing a legal battle in this emotionally compelling drama that could be found in any contemporary family court, anywhere in this country.

Books n' Bytes (

Puppet Child is a story fraught with tension....the story grips you and dares you to read further. The book is painful, raw and revealing... tension grows with each turning of the page.

Rebecca Reads Book Reviews

This one's a keeper! A rich, topnotch read. Feeds the mind, warms the heart, tickles the soul. Sets all the bells ringing! The kind of book you want to give to your friends. This one could become an Old Friend. Puppet Child is a good legal story that is not a legal thriller, but one that provides enthralling, thinking reading for courtroom buffs & legal thriller lovers. It is a solid, well–researched commentary on the state of the contemporary legal system...Talia Carner takes us through the case as seen from the point of the mother, the media, the lawyers, the judge &, most importantly, the girl herself.... Puppet Child provides poignant & topnotch suspense reading.... The protagonist, Rachel Belmore, commands admiration. She is a strong character who will remain in our minds for a long time...A topnotch novel about the fine line between law & justice.

California NOW Arts & Culture

Puppet Child is a work of fiction, but will ring with truth for many protective parents who have experienced unfair treatment....Readers will see several sides of Rachel's struggle - scenes in court, consultations with lawyers, her home life with Ellie, the fluctuations of her romantic life, and struggles at work. We also see behind the scenes into the judge's chambers for a look at how well-meaning people can make harmful judgements. Rachel's story shows many of the extremes of Family Law struggles ....The book ends in many ways unresolved, but with a positive note that may bring hope to others going through similar cases.

The Independent (East Hampton & South Hampton)

...engrossing, carefully researched novel... compelling popular tale of intrigue, suspense, and romance... a narrative that is harrowing in detail and psychologically astute... Given the timeliness of the subject, the question may hover, why fiction? The answer may lie in a shrewd observation made years ago by Norman Mailer, that in nonfiction you get at the facts, in fiction, the truth. In Puppet Child, Talia Carner can lay claim to having both.

Book Review Cafe

This was a fantastic book. It made me cry, throw the book down in frustration, and feel for these characters. In a well-researched story, Talia Carner has presented a case that is very true in the real world. Her writing style is phenomenal, and I look forward to reading her next best-sellers!

Book Loons Book Reviews

Talia Carner writes knowingly and believably.... Her action-packed novel (hard to believe it's her first) kept me turning the pages long after I should have turned off my bedside light...This is a fast-paced, breath-holding novel told mostly through crisp dialogue and Rachel's dark thoughts.... The reader (meaning me) wanted to rant at the system and rave at the torture of the child. Puppet Child is written without wails of pity for the mother and child. It tells its story as it might have happened. The emotion comes from the reader. This is a book that will not be finished, put down and forgotten. It lives with you.... It's a dynamic book that should be read and then handed around to friends....

Timeless Tales (

...The final chapters mount the suspense, bringing the work to a dramatic conclusion. Rachel learns more about herself and her friends and family along the way, teaching her hard lessons in who is able to help her. The ending leaves the reader satisfied with the overall story....the story ties together nicely, despite the uncomfortable nature of the subject.

United for Justice

Essential Reading A new must-read novel.

Huntress Book Reviews

I cannot express how great this is. Author Talia Carner has woven an intricate story from a sensitive subject that all parents fear! It showed the horrors, in detail, that many women have had to deal with, as well as, our judicial system that forces the mothers into failure and the children into the arms of their abusers....From the amazing opening until the very last page, I was hooked! I often found myself holding my breath.... I cannot say anything more without ruining the startling ending. I hope many workers in our legal system reads this book! The author researched so well, that I had to remind myself that this was a work of fiction...I strongly recommend this book to everyone.

Blether, The Book review Site [UK] (

Talia Carner wastes no words....This book is a powerhouse that opens ones eyes to the evil around them.

Reader Reviews
Vincent E. Cucci Jr., NJ

"Graphic, Poetic, Insightful"

Talia Carner in Puppet Child has given us an exceptionally realistic insight, albeit not a very pretty one of a mother's journey into hell. We are caught up in the trials and tribulations she faces as she ...   Read More

Idelle Clarke (

From a mom in "A Little Girl's Hell," who knows the horrors that do happen.

Even I was convinced that it was NOT fiction for hours of reading . What a relief that it is ! This talented writer has taken a shunned subject of immense importance...   Read More

Manny, The Colorado man

A gutsy novel that breaks a taboo--while delivering a non-stop suspense!

After a startling opening I had to know how this protagonist would tackle the challenges of her crisis. Carner did a masterful job of bringing me close to the situation, feeling ...   Read More

Chris Gilson

A gut wrenching story of injustice, rescue and responsibility that grips you from Chapter One and never lets go. From its 'I can't believe I just read that' opening scene, Puppet Child delivers a gutsy heroine, a deliciously clueless and corrupt ...   Read More

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