The Only Child

A Novel

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About The Book

Bestselling author Andrew Pyper returns with a thrilling new novel about one woman’s search for a mad killer, and the unsettling relationship that binds them.

What if you learned your father wasn’t who you thought he was? What if you learned you carried secrets deep within your blood?

Dr. Lily Dominick has seen her fair share of bizarre cases as a forensic psychiatrist working with some of New York’s most dangerous psychotic criminals. But nothing can prepare Lily for her newest patient.

Client 46874-A is nameless, and insists that he is not human. He tells Lily that he was not born, but created over two hundred years ago, and that he wants Lily to know what he is. As she listens to this man describe the twisted crime he’s committed, she can’t shake the feeling that he’s come for her—especially once he reveals that he knew her mother.

Lily Dominick was only six years old when her mother was violently murdered while Lily sat unscathed in the next room of their cabin. Investigators assumed it was a bear attack, but she has never been sure about what really happened that day. Now, this madman—this monster—may have the answers she’s been searching for.

When he suddenly escapes from the hospital and kills Lily’s boss, she does the unthinkable. She sets out on a hunt for the killer, not to return him to the authorities, but to unlock the mysteries he holds to her past.

The Only Child is a riveting thriller that asks dangerous questions about family ties that are bred and born in the blood.

Reading Group Guide

The Only Child
By Andrew Pyper
Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Only Child includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Introduction

Dr. Lily Dominick has seen her share of bizarre cases as a forensic psychiatrist working with some of New York’s most dangerous psychotic criminals. But nothing can prepare Lily for her newest patient.

Client 46874-A is nameless. He insists that he is not human, and believes that he was not born, but created over two hundred years ago. As Lily listens to this man describe the twisted crime he’s committed, she can’t shake the feeling that he’s come for her—especially once he reveals something she would have thought impossible: He knew her mother.

Lily was only six years old when her mother was violently killed in what investigators concluded was a bear attack. But even though she was there, even though she saw it, Lily has never been certain of what really happened that night. Now, this stranger may hold the answers to the questions she’s buried deep within herself all her life. That’s when he escapes.

To discover the truth—behind her client, her mother’s death, herself—Lily must embark on a journey that will threaten her career, her sanity, and ultimately her life.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. Discuss the importance of names in the novel. Why is Michael’s character introduced without a name, and how did that affect your understanding of his character?

2. Lily is often described as being isolated from others throughout the novel. How did her isolation affect her decision to go in search of Michael and the truth about her past?

3. Mental health plays an important role throughout the novel. Is mental health conflated with the supernatural in the novel? Why or why not?

4. Discuss the structure of the book. What effect does alternating between the past and present have on the story? How do the flashbacks relate to the theme of memory in the book?

5. Michael leaves pages from his diary in Lily’s apartment after he kills Dr. Edmunston. How do the pages guide Lily in her hunt for Michael?

6. Lily “mistrusts people for a living.” Does this lack of trust help or hinder her in the search for Michael?

7. Is Lily a trustworthy character? Why or why not?

8. Discuss the significance of the literary references throughout the novel. Is there one literary character that Michael most closely resembles, or does he possess different traits from each monster?

9. Even though she was only six years old when her mother died, Lily seems to have inherited many attributes from her mother. Discuss how Lily is similar to her mother. How is she similar to her father?

10. Does Lily ever come to terms with who her father is? If so, when and how?

11. If Michael’s character is based on Dracula, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Frankenstein, what literary character do you think Lily is inspired by?

12. Discuss the significance of the title.

Enhance Your Book Club

1. In the novel, Michael believes he personally inspired the following literary characters: Dracula, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Frankenstein. Read the books by Bram Stoker, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Mary Shelley and consider the connections between Michael and the original literary monsters.

2. Michael was created by Dr. Tivadar Eszes on the grounds of the Lipótmezei Sanatorium in 1811—a building that still stands today, long ago abandoned by its doctors and patients. Are there any abandoned sanatoriums in your area?

3. Check out more of Andrew Pyper’s books, such as The Damned and The Demonologist. To find out more about Andrew, visit andrewpyper.com, or follow him on twitter @andrewpyper.

About The Author

Photograph by Heidi Pyper

Andrew Pyper is the author of The Only Child, which was an instant national bestseller in Canada. He is also the author of six previous novels, including The Demonologist, which won the International Thriller Writers award for Best Hardcover Novel and was selected for The Globe and Mail’s Best 100 Books of 2013 and Amazon’s 20 Best Books of 2013. The Killing Circle was a New York Times Best Crime Novel of the Year. Four of Pyper’s novels, including The Damned, are in active development for feature film. He lives in Toronto. Visit AndrewPyper.com or @AndrewPyper.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (May 2017)
  • Length: 304 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781476755397

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Raves and Reviews

PRAISE FOR THE ONLY CHILD

“Gothic fans, rejoice! . . . An addictive cycle of cliffhanger chapter endings, quick resolutions, and taut, punchy sentences.” 

– The Globe and Mail

“Pyper upends genre conventions once again . . . a high-concept dark fantasy novel . . . Lily's journey with a monster who inspired the very literary tradition Pyper so skillfully exploits provides . . . a satisfying confrontation with darkness, both personal and mythological, that readers expect from the best horror.”

– Toronto Star

“So you're reading The Only Child, Pyper's newest book, and suddenly—kaboom!—the story is shot like a cannon blast across a very dark sky. Exactly the sort of light we pine for.”

– Josh Malerman, author of Bird Box and Black Mad Wheel

“A seductive gothic thriller for the modern age. Crafted with dark intrigue and cinematic drive, this mesmerizing journey into the heart of a monster is, at once, compelling, eerie and brilliantly satisfying.”

– Ami McKay, bestselling author of The Witches of New York

"Andrew Pyper's The Only Child cleverly re-imagines the 19th century gothic classics while spinning a thrilling, touching, and distinctly 21st century monster story."

– Paul Tremblay, author of A Head Full of Ghosts and Disappearance at Devil's Rock

"As much a psychological inquiry as it is an adrenaline-fueled thriller, layered with menace, mystery, and startling revelations that span centuries. A book that begs to be read in one sitting, with the doors locked, the lights low, and a sharp knife and a jug of holy water within reach, just in case."

– Benjamin Percy, author of The Dead Lands, Thrill Me, Red Moon and The Wilding

“Andrew Pyper has concocted a darkly entrancing tale that sweeps you off your feet from its first pages. Filled with deliriously clever nods to the grand Gothic tradition, The Only Child is also fiercely original, wildly provocative and utterly satisfying, beginning to end.”

– Megan Abbott, bestselling author of The Fever and You Will Know Me

"Pyper's writing is gripping, and readers will undoubtedly make comparisons to Stephen King." 

 

– Library Journal

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