BOISE, Idaho – Jan. 8, 2019
Author and volunteer for the deaf, Danielle Calloway, highlights a true life story of a young deaf boy (Nicolás) in Ecuador. Her debut novel, The Lost Child, tells the story of young Nicolás’ life on the streets and the perils he faces.
Abandoned by his step-father because of his disability, and alone in a country of overwhelming poverty, Nicolás must face life without security, always a step ahead of being caught by those who would further mistreat him, until he is found by a caring police officer, and a social worker volunteer, both of whom who must defy the odds to keep him safe.
“The word ‘deaf’ seems to be not very PC,” explains Calloway, “however, to the deaf community, ‘hearing impaired,’ is an insult. The word ‘impaired’ implies they are defective. They are deaf, and deaf encompasses a whole culture, not just the inability to hear.”
Through her words in The Lost Child Calloway hopes to bring attention to both the plight of the deaf, but in particular to the young children lost to the world in places like Ecuador.
“We can all make a difference,” Calloway adds. “Some people like Nicolás only receive kindness from strangers. I only hope The Lost Child motivates people to seek more ways to be kind.”
Published by AltPublish, The Lost Child is a powerful story of life, death, fear and hope, that resonates with all readers. In particular, it is Calloway’s hope that the deaf community will recognize its powerful message to be shared globally.
Twelve years earlier, in Esperanza, Ecuador, a young mother lovingly cradled her baby boy.
Outside the mud thickened as heavy rains fell, forming puddles where the donkeys and cows had just walked down the streets. The children quickly threw their soccer ball aside and grabbed sticks, leaves, and rocks and started to play in the mud, dirtying their bare legs, tattered shorts, and bare chests. Their contagious laughter filled the air and adults stopped their labors for a moment to watch the children and remember happier times. The sound of the rain pattered on.
Nicolás’s mother listened to the children’s laughter outside and the rain falling on the leaky tin roof of her small, dirt floor, bamboo house. Holding the tiny boy in her arms she whispered softly to him, “I hope your life is better than mine, I’ll try my best to make you happy and you’ll finish school and get a good job. You’ll marry a nice señorita and have a beautiful family of your own. Your life will not be like mine!” His large dark eyes fixed on hers each time she spoke to him. Only Nicolás couldn’t hear what she said. It would be two years until she realized that he was deaf. When she found this out, all her hopes and dreams for Nicolás vanished. She was devastated.
Looking for hope, she took him to the priest of the local church, even though it had been a long time since she had been in one. Timidly she tiptoed into the dark interior with Nicolás balancing on her hip. The priest was at the pulpit, practicing his lecture for Sunday’s mass. Shyly glancing at her surroundings, she felt small and insignificant. Embarrassed, she turned around to leave.
The priest, a slightly balding middle-aged man, raised his hands in the air and took a deep breath to deliver a damning message, his white collar squeezed his expanding neck as the buttons of his black shirt strained. Glaring down at his imaginary audience he said in a deep voice, “God sees all, he sees what you do in the dark, he sees what you do behind closed doors….”
A shadow moved, breaking his concentration. Quickly putting on his glasses he saw a woman with a child timidly trying to leave unnoticed. Thinking she might want to have him bless the child, he called out to her in a much softer voice, “Please, stay for a moment.” Walking up to her he gently took her elbow and led her to a wooden bench, “Please, have a seat. What is your name and what brings you here?”
She placed Nicolás on the floor to play and looked down, embarrassed. Then, looking up into his soft brown eyes and seeing concern and warmth, she explained, “This is my son, Nicolás, and I just found out he is deaf.”
The priest gazed down at the boy, who looked back up at him with a smile and held one slobbery hand up to him. Looking at Nicolás, the priest couldn’t tell he was deaf. He seemed like a normal toddler. He was a little too thin and had olive skin, straight black hair, and a wide mouth with a smile that invited friendship. The priest could tell, though, that something about those eyes were different. Set wide apart, those black eyes looked intensely at him, intelligent, sincere, and observing.
He remembered a saying, “The eyes are the windows to our soul,” and saw through Nicolás’s eyes that he was a gentle boy, full of love and kindness. “However,” he thought to himself, “he is deaf, and I’ve been taught that he is the product of sin.”
Seeing the priest gaze tenderly at her child, she started to have a glimmer of hope. Then, seeing his face suddenly harden, fear gripped at her heart. With tears slipping down her cheek, she raised her big black eyes to the priest and asked, “Why? Why is he deaf? Why did God do this to me? And what can I do? How do I raise him? What kind of life will he have?”
The warmth had disappeared from the priest’s eyes. He coldly crossed his arms and frowned. Taking a deep breath, he sternly he told her, “When a child is born deaf, blind, retarded, or deformed, it is because God is punishing the parents for their sins. Tell me now, what did you do to bring on this punishment?”
Instead of answering, she hung her head in shame. She knew there was no way she could tell the priest that she was a prostitute. “So, it’s my fault? Everyone will know I am a sinner?”
“Yes. Many people place their defective children in orphanages or institutions or hand them off to other family members to get a fresh start. Whether you keep him or give him away, that is your choice. If you would like to confess, change your ways, and beg for God’s forgiveness, I can help you with that.”
Timidly she asked, “If I do all of that, will God take my punishment away and cure the child?”
“No. Nicolás will always be a reminder of your sins, of your imperfections.”
“Everyone will always know that I am a sinner, that I did horrible things!”
“You can’t change the past. You are a sinner.”
“You don’t understand!” she yelled, eyes blazing, “What else was I to do? How else was I to survive? You’re comfortable in your nice house, you have a job and a paycheck, so how can you judge me? You don’t know what it is like to be a single woman without money!”
“There are always choices,” he coldly told her.
“What! What are my choices? You tell me if I had choices! No one wants me to wash their clothes, no one wants to hire me to work in their little stores. The oil company doesn’t want me. If I want to eat, if I want to live, there was only one thing I could do,” she choked down a sob, “Only the men want me. No one else!”
“This,” said the priest, pointing at Nicolás, “is the consequence of your sins. You will always have that as a reminder, as a mark against you. Change what you are, and God won’t punish you again.”
“I truly enjoyed reading this book. It touched my heart in many ways. The self-sacrificing spirit of Lily, in spite of her own limitations, came across as heartfelt, not fake. The trials experienced by Nicolas, while heartbreaking, some to the strong and enduring character of this special boy.”
“The author paints the picture of two very different lives, traveling down separate paths, drawing you closer to each, until their lives merge together. You can’t help but love both of these characters for different reason. You hope as each passing year comes and goes. You cry, get angry, have hope again, learn, grow, cry some more and finally your pride and belief in humanity is restored. This is a must read.”
The Lost Child is available for pre-order in print and eBook formats, on Amazon (https://amzn.to/2si8R4S) and other retailers, with a release date of January 18, 2019.