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A Haunting Psychological Drama: The Way Back by Kylie Ladd

August 7, 2017

xthe-way-back.jpg.pagespeed.ic.J_2dhx4aqpKylie Ladd has a gift for weaving together multiple perspectives and having them collide at the searing height of their disagreement. Not only is The Way Back an empathetic portrayal of trauma and convalescence, it’s also incredibly erudite in its ability to capture the minds of its characters. Child-abducting psychopaths, worrisome mothers, traumatised daughters, and disenchanted police officers are all dimensional, real, and compelling.

Charlie Johnson loves the freedom and empowerment of horse riding more than anything else. She is your ordinary teenager who spends her days at school, dreaming about her crush sho sits next to her in Science class, and riding her favourite horse Tic-Tac at the local pony club.
After meeting a stranger on the track where she rides Tic-Tac, Charlie goes missing. Nobody knows what has happened to her. All they know is that Charlie went for a ride and never came back. Tic-Tac eventually wanders home, and not long after a search party finds Charlie’s helmet abandoned in the overgrowth.

Young Charlie tries to outsmart her captor, all the while unable to comprehend her own abduction. He is the immaculate psychopath: abusive, violent, erratic, and crazed. Four months later she manages to escape her private hell and is reunited with her father Matt and mother Rachael.

They are happy to have their daughter back, but after so much trauma and suffering, can they truly heal?Kylie Ladd photo

Ladd’s novel eludes neat definition. On the surface it can be read as a psychological thriller, underpinned by a complex, natural understanding of human horror. But deep beneath the surface is an examination of how we respond to tragedy and whether broken relationships can be stitched back together again.

It may come as no surprise that apart from being a published novelist, Ladd has a PhD in neuropsychology and continues to work in public and private practice in this field

Interestingly, Ladd was inspired by the abduction of Australian teenager Eloise Worledge, who was abducted from her Melbourne home in 1976 and was never seen again. But, as Ladd says, The Way Back, is ‘not about her, but is in memory of her.’

‘It is about enduring not only an abduction, but also the return to daily life that comes afterwards, and whether such victims are ever truly released.’

‘A gifted writer who knows how to weave the complexity of relationships into a beautifully crafted story.’ Mia Freedman, Mamamia.

Kylie Ladd is a freelance writer whose essays and articles have appeared in The Age, Griffith Review, Etchings, O magazine, The Sydney Morning Herald, Good Medicine, Sydney’s Child, and Readers Digest, amongst others. Kylie’s novels have been published in Australia, New Zealand, the US, the UK and Europe. Her second novel, Last Summer, was highly commended in the 2011 Federation of Australian Writers Christina Stead Award for fiction, while her third, Into My Arms, was selected as one of Get Reading’s ‘Fifty Books You Can’t Put Down’ for 2013. She has also co-edited and co-authored two non-fiction books, Naked: Confessions of Adultery and Infidelity and Living with Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias. She lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband, Craig, and two young children.

Grab a copy or start reading here



  1. Kerri Sackville

    Um…. A key aspect of this book is that Col is NOT a psychopath. He’s quite a detailed and nuanced character, far more interesting than a straight ‘psychopath’ would be. Also the book wasn’t inspired by Elizabeth Smart (who is still alive so her ‘memory’ is a bit odd…) – it was inspired by Kylie’s abducted schoolfriend. Interesting review!

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