rating: 4 of 5 stars
While reading The Abstinence Teacher already had me scouring the library catalogue for more Perrotta material, I chose Little Children on the recommendation of my good friend Mike, and it too proved to be an emotional page-turner. Like with The Abstinence Teacher, I wasn’t sure who I was “rooting for,” whether I condoned Todd and Sarah’s affair or condemned it, which characters I was supposed to like and which I was supposed to despise. If there was ever an author who could write about morally ambiguous topics impartially, Perrotta is that author.
The danger in being impartial is in seeming unfeeling and distant, but Perrotta’s writing is none of these. In Little Children, you immediately lean in close to see Todd—the stay-at-home dad who just won’t transform from his college football playing “boy” self into the lawyer “man” self his wife expects. You squint to get a better look at Sarah—the not-quite mom who always forgets her daughter’s snacks and wants to wear a red bikini to the swimming pool. You feel as much simultaneous compassion and contempt for the child molester as for the brutish father who keeps harassing him.
Little Children is a thoughtfully constructed novel that questions the concepts of marriage, family, loyalty, and love. Perhaps I am in the stage of my life when these ideas seem most relevant to begin considering, but I think even those who have the most stable marriages or haven’t even yet considered marriage can find a piece of plot and a character trait to relate to. That is what Perrotta is good at: making his characters people you know.
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