The best books that explore childhood trauma

Catherine Yardley Author Of Ember
By Catherine Yardley

Who am I?

I have always been fascinated by people and I love stories. All we are is who we are to each other. Our childhoods are such a formative time and they echo into our future. We never really leave them behind. If we have a childhood wound we have to fix it. Childhood trauma and recovering from it is such a fascinating topic. Psychology has always intrigued me. We can suppress memories and then, boom!, they hit us and we have to deal with the fallout. I have read so many books on the topic and I look forward to reading more in the future. 

I wrote...


By Catherine Yardley,

Book cover of Ember

What is my book about?

Ember is a novel about how our childhood stays with us throughout our lives. We can go through our lives thinking it's not affecting us but sometimes it stays below the surface. Natalie’s life spins out of control when her younger sister gets married before her and announces her pregnancy at the wedding dress fitting. Their father walked out on them when they were children and now he is coming to the wedding. 

Ember is a love story set against a backdrop of family drama and toxic family members. Our childhood trauma never really leaves us. What's important is how we deal with it and move on. If you don’t heal your wounds you bleed over people who never cut you. That is what Natalie has to learn in Ember

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The books I picked & why

The Flight Attendant

By Chris Bohjalian,

Book cover of The Flight Attendant

Why did I love this book?

This book is about a flight attendant called Cassie Bowden who wakes up next to a dead man. Strange choice, right? Not really. Cassie is a high-functioning alcoholic who is desperately trying to escape her troubled childhood. Cassie is full of self-loathing and clearly has low self-esteem. She makes bad choices but ultimately I loved her and wanted her to succeed. Cassie, like my protagonist, Natalie, has gone a bit off the rails and is struggling to find herself. While my book lacks dead bodies and the FBI, both stories are about healing and finding a home. 

This fantastic book has also been made into a great television show. However, I will always prefer the ending in the book.

By Chris Bohjalian,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Flight Attendant as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A powerful thriller about the ways an entire life can change in one night: A flight attendant wakes up in the wrong hotel, in the wrong bed, with a dead man—and no idea what happened. • Don't miss the acclaimed HBO Max series!

Cassandra Bowden is no stranger to hungover mornings. She's a binge drinker, her job with the airline making it easy to find adventure, and the occasional blackouts seem to be inevitable. She lives with them, and the accompanying self-loathing. When she awakes in a Dubai hotel room, she tries to piece the…

Book cover of The Call of Cassandra Rose: A gripping psychological domestic thriller with a shocking twist

Why did I love this book?

The Call of Cassandra Rose is also about childhood trauma and healing from it. I could not read this book fast enough. I was desperate to know what happened. Sophia Spiers is such a brilliant writer. This book is harrowing in places and the character can be unlikeable, just like mine. But really, they are just being human. Human beings are messy and complicated and nothing is harder than family. 

This book had me enraged at how unfair Annabelle is treated and I really rooted for her. Just as I hope people root for Natalie, even though she can be erratic and stubborn as hell. Annabelle is struggling with motherhood and is in a terrible marriage. She hopes her hypnotist can fix her, but can she? Is life really that simple?

By Sophia Spiers,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Call of Cassandra Rose as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Hypnotic, chilling and harrowing. Spiers has delivered a fabulous debut thriller that will keep you guessing until the very end.' J.A. Corrigan, author of THE NURSE

Annabelle seems to have it all. The perfect house, a successful husband, a darling son. But Annabelle is troubled.

Trapped in an unhappy marriage, failing at motherhood, and at odds with her new privileged lifestyle, Annabelle begins to self-harm, a habit resurrected from her traumatic past.

When she meets the alluring and charismatic hypnotherapist Cassandra Rose, she is offered a way out.

Through hypnosis, Annabelle is encouraged to unearth her painful repressed memories and…

Ripple Effect

By N.A. Cooper,

Book cover of Ripple Effect

Why did I love this book?

Ripple Effect has the perfect title as it shows how the things that happen in our past ripple through into our adulthood. N. A. Cooper does such a superb job of telling the story of Erin who had an affair with a teacher when she was only fifteen years old. Trapped in an unhappy marriage, her past starts to haunt her after she is attacked in the park and left notes about what happened all of those years ago. 

Haunted by her past and unable to allow herself to be happy Erin gets in her own way. Can she learn the truth about what really happened? I loved this book.

By N.A. Cooper,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ripple Effect as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Outstanding . . . one of the best books I have read.” —Beechclose, five stars

A long-ago illicit relationship continues to upend lives in this taut psychological suspense novel . . .

Fifteen years ago, teenage Erin had an affair with her teacher that led to tragedy and changed Erin’s life. Today, she’s a married woman who keeps to herself and stays close to home, still scarred by the experience.

When she’s attacked while running in the park, Erin doesn’t tell her husband—but she does confide in Nick, the man who came to her rescue. Then letters start to arrive,…

The Daughter

By Liz Webb,

Book cover of The Daughter

Why did I love this book?

This book had me completely gripped. It is absolutely brilliant. Hannah’s mother was murdered when she was younger and now she’s not sure her father didn’t do it. Her father has dementia and as she starts to resemble her mother more the truth starts to come out. She is estranged from her television star brother and caring for her father. She is scarred from her childhood and has never reached her potential. 

She becomes determined to find out the truth about what happened to her mother. As childhood trauma goes, your mother being murdered is right up there and this book is so compelling and beautifully written. I could not put it down. It’s perfect.

By Liz Webb,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Daughter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

I lean in and whisper the question I have never let myself utter in twenty-three years.
"Dad, did you murder Mum?"

Hannah Davidson has a dementia-stricken father, an estranged TV star brother, and a mother whose death opened up hidden fault lines beneath the surface of their ordinary family life.

Now the same age that Jen Davidson was when she was killed, Hannah realises she bears an uncanny resemblance to her glamorous mother, and when her father begins to confuse them she is seriously unnerved.

Determined to uncover exactly what happened to her mum, Hannah begins to exploit her arresting…

Sharp Objects

By Gillian Flynn,

Book cover of Sharp Objects

Why did I love this book?

In Ember Natalie is let down by her father. She is forced to be the adult and raise her siblings. She has a tough childhood, or in her own words ‘never had one.’ Many people are not sympathetic to this but it is tough when you were never loved nor cared for as a child. Anyway, to take this to the extreme: Sharp Objects. I was intrigued by the mother in Sharp Objects and how Camille’s life has been affected by her mother. 

Sharp Objects has a lot to say about the parent's relationship with their child and how delving back into your childhood can be a dangerous and harrowing thing. It is such a brave and well-written book.

By Gillian Flynn,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Sharp Objects as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?



Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, reporter Camille Preaker faces a troubling assignment: she must return to her tiny hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. For years, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed in her old bedroom in her family's Victorian mansion, Camille finds…

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