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Little Monsters

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I don’t think we’ve had the pleasure of a proper introduction,” Adam said, cutting the lecture short.

Ken’s wife Jenny plays a central role as does Stephanie, a living and breathing surprise from Adam’s past who is visiting the Cape and is tiptoeing around the family, waiting for the right moment to introduce herself. From the author of the bestselling memoir Wild Game comes a riveting novel about Cape Cod, complicated families, and long-buried secrets—for fans of the New York Times bestsellers The Paper Palace and Ask Again, Yes . Ignore what everyone else is saying and absolutely do not read The Paper Palaceby Miranda Cowley Heller. I was also a bit frustrated by the fact that all the women in the book are defined in large part by their motherhood.Steph, a Boston police officer whose biological father has just been revealed to her after years of her mother’s lies. His glory days were in the late 1970s when, as a young scientist, he was part of a team that disproved once and for all the notion that life could be sustained only by a photosynthesis-based food chain. As Adam grows more attuned to the frequencies of the deep sea and less so to the people around him, Ken and Abby each plan the elaborate gifts they will present to their father on his birthday, jostling for primacy in this small family unit. The enigmatic Steph is a competent police officer vacationing in Provincetown, with her partner, Toni.

I am big on books where the characters have jobs that feel earned and make sense to their character development-- this delivers in spades. Ken, a businessman with political ambitions, is caught in an internet chatroom and forced into couples therapy. I skipped over the entire middle of the book and was easily able to pick up right before the 70th birthday party, without feeling I missed a beat. She KNOWS this world she's writing - the setting but also the intricate and complicated family dynamics in play here. The novel as a whole seems to have an idealogical and political alignment with one particular character, but the others aren’t entirely demonized or undercut.The bohemian, single Abby is a “graduate of RISD, 1999” and had been “making art on Cape Cod ever since. They keep the seething caldron of their history barely tamped down while warily staying in each other’s orbit, due in part to the remote artist’s studio tucked back on the sand dunes that their deceased mother Emily owned, in which Abby now lives and works, and which was left to Ken before Abby was born. Adam is father to Ken and Abby, who are now moving toward midlife and living disparate lives while nursing a relationship inexplicably strained in their childhood. The new doctor acknowledged Adam only cursorily, opting to study his electronic patient chart first—mistake number one. Each morning, buzzing, he slung his legs off the bed and sat bolt upright, naked, allowing his male parts to hang over the edge of the mattress, and did his best to capture these jangled dreams, recording what details he could remember in a spiral-bound notebook kept by his bedside.

They can be antagonistic presences in each other’s lives, and certainly some of the characters do or have done horrible things… but they’re all human, and the novel gives them that humanity, that freedom to be ugly, without condoning their every move. Adam hasn’t made this discovery yet, but going off his medication has him convinced that it’s within his grasp. The cover of Little Monsters depicts a gorgeous seascape with a dulcet sky, ocean blues and young children playing in the golden sand. Emotions run high and low on these pages and there are lots of pieces and parts to this complex family puzzle.Told through multiple POVs, Little Monsters has the right balance of family drama, flawed characters and the coastal, summer setting of Cape Cod.

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