Join BookBrowse today and get access to free books, our twice monthly digital magazine, and more.

Reviews of Puppet Child by Talia Carner

Puppet Child

by Talia Carner

Puppet Child by Talia Carner X
Puppet Child by Talia Carner
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Nov 2002, 260 pages

    Sep 2002, 260 pages


  • Rate this book

Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

When the justice system fails her daughter, one courageous mother takes matters into her own hands. In a wrenching race against time, the safety of one child becomes entangled in the theatrics of Family Court, bottled-up family dynamics, media frenzy, and the pressure of the political machine.

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."


Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!
Talia Carner is available for guest appearances and book signings. She is also delighted to talk with book groups in person, if logistically possible, or by phone/email. Please mail her at

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...
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!


Media Reviews

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....

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!


Read-Alikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked Puppet Child, try these:

  • The Still Point of the Turning World jacket

    The Still Point of the Turning World

    by Emily Rapp Black

    Published 2014

    About this book

    More by this author

    The Still Point of the Turning World is the story of a mother's journey through grief and beyond it, re-examining our most fundamental assumptions about what it means to be a good parent, to be a success, and to live a meaningful life.

  • The Way The Crow Flies jacket

    The Way The Crow Flies

    by Ann-Marie MacDonald

    Published 2004

    About this book

    A novel that is as compelling as it is rich. With her unerring eye for the whimsical, the absurd, and the quintessentially human, Ann-Marie MacDonald stunningly evokes the pain, confusion, and humor of childhood in a perilous adult world.

We have 5 read-alikes for Puppet Child, but non-members are limited to two results. To see the complete list of this book's read-alikes, you need to be a member.
More books by Talia Carner
Search read-alikes
How we choose read-alikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Join our inner reading circle, go ad-free and get way more!

Find out more

Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Clear
    by Carys Davies
    John Ferguson is a principled man. But when, in 1843, those principles drive him to break from the ...
  • Book Jacket: Change
    by Edouard Louis
    Édouard Louis's 2014 debut novel, The End of Eddy—an instant literary success, published ...
  • Book Jacket: Big Time
    Big Time
    by Ben H. Winters
    Big Time, the latest offering from prolific novelist and screenwriter Ben H. Winters, is as ...
  • Book Jacket: Becoming Madam Secretary
    Becoming Madam Secretary
    by Stephanie Dray
    Our First Impressions reviewers enjoyed reading about Frances Perkins, Franklin Delano Roosevelt's ...

BookBrowse Book Club

Book Jacket
Half a Cup of Sand and Sky
by Nadine Bjursten
A poignant portrayal of a woman's quest for love and belonging amid political turmoil.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Stone Home
    by Crystal Hana Kim

    A moving family drama and coming-of-age story revealing a dark corner of South Korean history.

  • Book Jacket

    The Flower Sisters
    by Michelle Collins Anderson

    From the new Fannie Flagg of the Ozarks, a richly-woven story of family, forgiveness, and reinvention.

Win This Book
Win The Funeral Cryer

The Funeral Cryer by Wenyan Lu

Debut novelist Wenyan Lu brings us this witty yet profound story about one woman's midlife reawakening in contemporary rural China.



Solve this clue:

M as A H

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.