Lamb by Bonnie Nadzam


Five words from the blurb: kid, reckless, heart, beautifully, idea

Lamb is a fast paced, gripping book that questions whether or not it is OK for an adult man to have a friendship with a child. Lamb is fifty-four-years-old when he discovers a girl being bullied. He rescues her and then realises that she is a latch-key kid, ignored by her parents. Feeling sorry for her he takes the girl out for lunch, an act of kindness that sparks their friendship. Over the course of the book Lamb becomes more involved in her life, but at some point he crosses the moral line and his behavior becomes inappropriate. The big debate is which acts are acceptable and when does he go too far? I’m torn and hope to persuade some of my friends to read this book so that we can discuss the issues raised.

The writing style was informal and Lamb continually questioned whether or not he was doing the right thing:

And there was nothing wrong with that, was there? With a guy like him buying a kid like her a nice lunch, spoiling her a little? It was good for her. It was just a little tonic for his poisonous heart. Right? Why shouldn’t he have done that? It was good for them both. And so it was good for everybody – because that is how goodness works

The reader is left to come to their own conclusions, propelled through the story with an increasing sense of dread. I loved the way this book highlighted our society’s problem of assuming all men who want interactions with children are pedophiles. It is a difficult subject, but I thought Nadzam addressed it with a sensitivity that should be admired.

The only problem with the book is that the story is quite simple and I don’t think there is enough depth to sustain a re-read. Luckily the plot is not predictable and the ending is especially good.

Lamb is a compelling, thought provoking read that deserves to be a best seller. Recommended to fans of Room by Emma Donoghue


The thoughts of other bloggers:

It’s compulsive and urgent and compelling,  but it is also disconcerting and creepy. Reading Matters

Lyrical, brisk and evocative. Learn this Phrase

Lamb is not a horror novel; it is far more than that, for the terror is subtly created  in the reader’s mind rather than being explicit on the page. A Common Reader


21 replies on “Lamb by Bonnie Nadzam”

When I read your review I started thinking of Lolita. I couldn’t get through that one, but it looks like this is much more readable- and deals with the same kind of issues. I’m curious now. Adding it to my list.

Jeane, I haven’t read Lolita, but I think this is different because the man doesn`t set out to have a sexual relationship with the child. It is all about friendship. I imagine this is much easier to read too. I hope you decide to give it a try.

I think he does set out to have a sexual relationship with her, though he doesn’t want to scare her off. This is typical modus operandi for a paedophile – they begin by using friendship to win a child’s trust and then the abuse occurs. He goes to extraordinary lengths to become friends with her – the meals, the trip and the over-the-top way in which he hides whenever she undresses.The beauty of the book is that you find yourself pitying him rather than condemning him.

Kim, It is interesting to hear that you think he set out for a sexual relationship. I didn’t get that from the beginning at all. I thought he appeared more like a father figure. A sad, lonely old man who just wanted a family and that feeling of helping someone. His thoughts all seemed to point to the fact that he knew it would look bad from an external point of view, but he was just trying to help her out, give her the nice things her parents were failing to provide. I did find myself pitying him and I agree – that is a rare thing for an author to do well.

Judith, I think the blog reviews for this book will snowball over the coming months – I’m sure someone will persuade you to read this before the end of the year!

I’ve heard about this one quite a bit last year. There were some interesting questions. I’m curious about checking it but the subject matter makes me ugh. Still, I’ll probably make some time to read it.

Athira, I think the wonderful thing about this book is that the horror is all in the reader’s head – nothing bad is written in the text. I hope you decide to give it a try one day.

I read this last year and it made me uneasy. You do wonder when he crosses the line … he inches up there slowly. It is weird/wrong/sad (?) that any friendship with an older man and young girl automatically feels like it is wrong and inappropriate.

Jenners, I think it is sad that men cannot be friends with children. When I was younger I used to be friends with several older men. I used to travel round the country with them (to play Go) and there was never any hint of anything sexual. I worry that times have changed so much that wouldn’t happen any more as everyone would be so worried about non existent motives. I’ve also heard a case where a foster dad was made to feel terrible because he helped bath the kids and put them to bed. There is too much suspicion placed on good people and I think that is sad. 🙁

I finished reading ‘Lamb’ yesterday and I still don’t know how I feel about it. It is completely compelling, but seriously disturbing. The writing is great though, especially the dialogue.

I don’t know that I empathised with David – I can’t say that I ever saw his point of view or felt sorry for him and I think it would have made for an even more chilling read if I had been able to. But I think the uncomfortable quandaries it set up in my mind are one of the books strengths: was he just looking to be a father figure or was there a sexual motive – to me there seemed to be or at least he was heading in that direction, and there’s an ambiguous line towards the end that suggests something more physical has occurred.

I found the omnipresent narrator a bit odd, though it added to the overall atmosphere of the book – all that ‘say this happened’, ‘our guy’ stuff – and then towards the end the narrator talks for a couple of pages in the first person and I wasn’t sure if the narrator had actually been David all along, and if so, do the events of the book actually happen, or is it some sort of weird fantasy scenario he’s playing in his head? Nothing happens that surprises him or throws his plan (why does nobody at any of these motels and rest stops spot them?) which suggests he has complete control of the narrative. Even Linnie’s appearance at the cabin seems to titillate him more than worry him, and surely she wouldn’t have bought his niece story so easily? Or is he just spinning the events in such a way as to justify himself – he is after all a narcissist and seems a bit delusional.

It is certainly thought-provoking and one I’m going to be mulling over for a few days yet I should think.

David, I’m glad you found this one thought provoking too.

I thought of him as a father figure throughout, but I liked the way some aspects were ambiguous so the reader is never really sure.
“why does nobody at any of these motels and rest stops spot them?” I suspect this is because they do appear like a father and daughter.
“Nothing happens that surprises him or throws his plan.” I wish that this happened too. I thought the plot was a little too simple and would have benefitted from a few spanners in his plans. It might have given us a greater insight into the workings of his mind, but perhaps that is something the author wanted to avoid? This is the perfect book for a book group as so many aspects can be seen in different ways and it is so interesting to compare the way we view it.

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