Review: Little Monsters - Adrienne Brodeur
Genre: Literary Fiction
Published: Simon & Schuster, June 2023
My Rating: 4.5/5 stars
"He didn’t understand why these bittersweet memories were suddenly surfacing. Thirty-eight years, and still, just a finger snap from grief."
Little Monsters was my first introduction to Adrianne Brodeurs work, so I didn’t completely know what to expect going in. The synopsis and the authors memoir suggested a tale of dysfunctional families and mental health, whereas the cover and the authors previous fiction hinted at more of a beach-read. I was very happy to see it delivered the first. This is a layered story of a family teetering on an edge, the threads that bind them stretched to the breaking point. With clear allusions to the biblical tale of Cain and Abel, this is a narrative that I highly recommend you experience for yourself.
Little Monsters achieves a sense of momentum and pacing through a ticking clock counting down the months to a large event. We meet Adam Gardner, a brilliant oceanographer with an almost obsessive fascination with whales, counting down the summer months to his 70th birthday in September. Struggling with the prospect of mortality and the legacy he will leave behind, he decides to quit his medication for his bipolar disorder, convinced this is the only way to unlock his genius and make one final scientific discovery to put him on the map forever.
Also preparing for their fathers birthday are his two children, Ken and Abby. Ken a successful but ruthless businessman, providing financial support to not only his family, but his sister alike. Abby a passionate visual artist who depends on her brother’s goodwill, in part because he owns the studio where she lives and works.
Tensions rise due to the increasing feeling of rivalry and competition for their fathers approval between the siblings, and climax when a third (half-) sibling enters the playing field with an urgent message to share. Meanwhile, all three of them might be missing what’s happening under their nose: their father losing his mind more and more to the secrets of the ocean he’s desperately studying.
Told through gorgeous prose that brings to live these flawed characters and the vivid Cape Cod setting alike, Adrienne Brodeur retells a timeless tale in a modern coat of paint. Connections to Cain and Abel go deeper than the obvious name-references, but weave into the character dynamics seamlessly. It combines themes the familiar themes of jealousy, narcissism, infidelity, pride and a desperate need to be seen by their sole parent, with ones that weren’t present in the original story. Capitalism, the lingering grief over a mother lost too soon, and the family inheritance of mental- and physical health.
Many thanks to Simon & Schuster for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Find this book here on Goodreads.