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September 28, 2023

Orchid Child by Victoria Costello ~ a Review

by MK French

Kate is a neuroscientist fired over her affair with her married lab director. Tasked with caring for her fifteen-year-old nephew Teague, Kate agrees to conduct a study in West Ireland. The area has a high rate of schizophrenia, and Teague hears voices. While participating in the study, a local Druid identifies it as second sight. Kate is now involved in Celtic mysticism and her grandparents' history, as they were banished as traitors from the same town.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

book cover of historical fiction novel Orchid Child by Victoria Costello
June 2023; Liminal Books; 978-1958901151
audio, ebook, print (312 pages); historical fiction

We have a dual timeline in this story. One thread starts with the arrival in Ireland, and we see the modern 2002 version of Ballymore. The other thread is the 1920 version, where echoes of war and British rule over the region hover, and the second sight is a heritable trait in Callahan men. The story shifts back and forth between timelines, with Kate remembering things in the past. This gives me the sense of flashbacks within flashbacks, so it took me a while to really get into the story and care about the characters. I couldn't feel too attached when the continual flashbacks kept yanking me out of their stories. Kate also pushes forward New Yorker style in Ireland, and can't even interview a potential patient at the start of the novel. The Irish are all about family, still taking feuds from generations ago to heart, and Kate either has to learn to fit in or get shut out of yet another area of study.

The title comes from the theory of orchid children vs dandelion children. The orchid children are sensitive to adversity and where they grow up, while dandelion children can flourish anywhere. The study is also based on one that actually took place in that time period. Teague's mother was using drugs, possibly while pregnant with him, and died of an overdose. This left Kate as his only parental figure after Kate's grandmother died, and she tended to be more closed off and selfish. She doesn't seem to learn her lesson until hit in the face with a clue by four. I found Teague the most likable character because I felt sorry for the way his hallucinations tormented him and there were ghosts all around in the town. As they say later in the book, "secrets are a major food group here." The past thread continued forward, covering two generations, and both story threads twine together at the end. The story itself is a good one, but how it was told didn't quite grab me.

Buy Orchid Child at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever.

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