Monday, February 25, 2019

Book Review: Little Lovely Things

By Jami Deise

Little children are afraid of monsters – the thing under the bed, the thing hiding in the closet. Teenagers enjoy the thrills of vampires, supernatural serial killers, and zombies. But adults know that monsters are real, and the worst monsters of all are the ones who seem just like us.

In Maureen Connelly’s debut, Lovely Little Things, medical resident Claire Rawlings wields a bottle of monster spray in her daughters’ room every night. Her girls, Andrea and Lily, are one and four, and between trying to take care of them, finish her medical training, and enjoy her relationship with her husband, Claire is exhausted. Driving them to daycare one day, she’s overwhelmed by illness and stops in a gas station bathroom in a seedy neighborhood, leaving the girls in a running car. When she regains consciousness, the car—and the girls—are gone.

When I first picked up this book, I thought it would be similar to other domestic thrillers about mothers and missing children. I fully expected a fast-paced ride, with everyone doubting Claire, and Claire questioning her own sanity. The novel was not what I expected – in fact, Claire isn’t even the only point-of-view character. Because of this, the plot loses momentum about halfway through, years pass, and the book becomes more women’s fiction and less thriller, with aspects of spirituality thrown in.

Connelly makes an interesting choice to have the girls’ kidnapper as a point-of-view character. Because of this, there’s no mystery to the reader about what happened to the girls. But it does give the book a sense of inevitability for events that occur during the novel’s final third. The girls are taken because the kidnapper sees Claire and thinks she’s a junkie; this is a terrific set-up with no pay-off (She never finds out the truth; there’s no attempt to find out anything about the girls.) Connelly tries her best to make the kidnapper somewhat sympathetic, but she’s a Traveler (Gypsy) on the run with another Traveler, and the two of them are so different from Claire that it felt like the author was making a statement about this group. I wondered how the book would have differed had the kidnapper been someone with a good heart who’d made a fatal mistake instead. Another point-of-view character is a Native American who crosses paths with the kidnappers and has visions about the girls; he is wholly sympathetic, but again, the “otherness” sends a subtle message about minority groups that I don’t think the writer meant to convey.

Still, I enjoyed the book despite its issues with pacing. Claire is a fully formed protagonist that any woman can identify with, even though she disappears for chapters at a time. And the ending made me cry, which is the best endorsement a reviewer can offer.

Thanks to Suzy Approved Book Tours for the book in exchange for an honest review.

1 comment:

Dianna said...

This sounds like a really unusual story!