This, it turns out, was the book I needed to read to get me out of my "reading slump". Torey Hayden's books are always gripping and this was no different. Well-written, compelling and often impossible to put down, Twilight Children chronicles Hayden's experiences working in a psychiatric ward for children. Her patients this time are Cassandra and Drake. Cassandra is an explosive, seriously disturbed child who was abducted from her mother by a vengeful father, who subjected Cassandra to shocking abuse and neglect before she was finally located and returned to her mother more than two years later. When she reaches Hayden's care, Cassandra is unpredictable, destructive and foul-mouthed - almost impossible to like or to reach. Drake is Cassandra's counterpoint - a charming and attractive fellow who gives every appearance of being a perfectly normal, outgoing, intelligent little boy except for his total lack of speech. During the course of the book, Hayden overcomes considerable odds to work with these children, figure out what they need, and help to make their lives more normal.
It can be hard to read about children experiencing abuse, and Cassandra's tale is particularly brutal. However, though she doesn't hold back any of the facts to spare her readers, Hayden doesn't sensationalize what these kids have been through. The wonderful thing about her books is reading about the power that Torey Hayden has to get through to kids whose situations seem utterly hopeless, to create a powerful connection with them, and help them to heal. In the end, after reading a Torey Hayden book, I feel a strong sense of hope that even though there are people in the world who mistreat children, there are also people out there like her who are making it possible for those children to find their way to a healthy and normal adult life.