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Little Children Paperback – 25 Jul 2005
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"'Outstanding...a fleshed out portrait crossing seemingly rigid social boundaries' New York Times Review 'Little Children, like all Perrotta's work, is a virtuoso set of overlapping character studies, the sort of book where both a remorseless Stepford mom and an accused child molester can inspire pity and show themselves more than capable of their own sorts of compassion' Washington Post"
About the Author
Tom Perrotta is the author of several works of fiction, including Joe College and Election, which was made into the acclaimed 1999 movie starring Reese Witherspoon and Matthew Broderick. Perrotta has taught expository writing at Yale and Harvard University. Tom lives with this wife and two children in Belmont, Massachusetts. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top customer reviews
As a mother of young children and wife there were moments and thoughts and situations that brought a wry smile to my face while reading.
I like Sarah, I think we could be friends (if she were real!)
I struggled a bit with the American football as I'm not familiar with the terminology but it was written well enough to get me through.
Perrotta is a high quality but utterly readable novelist dealing with weighty issues with a deft hand. Humour, tragedy, the whole shebang is in Little Children.
Amongst the women are the right-wing Mary Ann, whose opinion of Madame Bovary is that ‘she’s a slut’ and whose life revolves around a fixed rota of children’s mealtimes and bedtimes, and parental sex [Tuesday nights at 9 prompt] and Sarah, failed academic [her proposed thesis ‘The Normalization of Abuse: Patriarchy and Marital Rape’ was never submitted] who is married to the much older Richard, currently enthralled by the webcam activities of ‘36-year-old married bisexual exhibitionist’ Slutty Kay.
Initially somewhat implausibly Todd and Sarah begin a passionate affair but as this develops the author makes their relationship and mutual dependency believable. Along with this story of family frustration, Perrotta creates a much darker story involving a paedophile, Ronald James McGorvey, and his mother, May, and the resentful ex-policeman and football enthusiast, Larry, who also has anger management issues. Larry is the driving force behind the local Committee of Concerned Parents. Given America’s propensity for [gun] violence, I found it hard to believe that Ronald would not have been speedily run out of town, or worse, particularly when rumours of even worse crimes swirl around.
Perrotta maintains his ferocious yet compassionate commentary throughout the book. There are, however, many genuinely comical scenes, not least descriptions of football matches that are generally impenetrable for a non-American readership. At one point the wonderful May encourages her son to go out on dates and despite an early draft of his lonely hearts’ advert, 'Overweight ex-con with receding hairline, bites nails and smokes like chimney. Likes kiddie porn and quiet nights in front of the television', he does venture out. The outcome again shows Perrotta’s innate ability to mix darkness, comedy and compassion.
Whilst the book’s title could refer to the offspring of these self-satisfied and bored adults, it really highlights the way in which the latter behave since the children themselves stubbornly remain on the periphery allowing the author to avoid the trap of sentimentality. The central characters engage in considerable reflection that allows them to appreciate the true extent of their shattered dreams. However, their solution seems to be little more than to seek the escape of new relationships and relive their teenage years.
Todd’s dread of failing his law repeats yet again is matched by his terror of passing them since that would make a legal career inevitable, removing the last opportunity for the freedom and irresponsibility that he craves. His wife, Kathy, a film-maker, sees such a career to be the answer to the couple’s financial and emotional insecurities. Repeatedly the positions his characters find themselves in are understandable and allow the reader the luxury of identifying with the consequences of making the wrong decision or the coming to the right decision for the wrong reason.
John Updike’s Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom, also a serial escapee, will always be linked to the internal pressures of American small town life but this book stands worthy of comparison. I will be interested to see how the author’s other novels and short stories compare.
A group of young mothers were telling each other how tired they were. Sarah thought she was a researcher studying the behavior of boring suburban women. Cheryl is a mother of three-year-old Christian. Mary Ann is a mother of Troy and Isabelle. Theresa is the mother of Courtney. Each mother tells each other about their personal life. Nothing much seems to happen where they live, but that all changed. The gossip is that Ronald James McGorvey, a forty-three-year-old former Catholic school custodian and convicted sex offender, who had moved in with his elderly mother right near where the mothers with their children lived. Some of the mothers had to pass by there everyday on their way to the playground.
The novel centers on the chance meeting of Todd, the handsome, sexystay-at-home-dad nicknamed "The Prom King" with Sarah, a trendy, one-timefeminist, who has become trapped in a sexless, conventional marriage toRichard, an older man. The kiss that Sarah unwittingly smacks on Todd atthe local playground, leads to a desperate, highly sexual, and clandestineaffair, which in turn has ramifications for their marriages that neitherof them could have anticipated. There's also an effective subplotinvolving the arrival in the neighborhood of a convicted child molester,which presents some of the characters, particularly Larry, an ex-cop, witha quite challenging moral dilemma. With all this subversive andduplicitous behavior, Perrotta never judges his characters; he sees themas basically nice people trapped by their own inertia but at the same timehonest about their lot and stage in life.
Little Children is whimsical, light-hearted and amusing, and Perrottaachieves this tone by developing his characters emotions in potent andsurprising ways. Todd, the father of a new born son "begins to suspectthat there was something not quite right, something unresolved anddefective at the core of his being," and he thinks of the thrill, andelectrical current filling him with a conviction that a life with Sarah,is not only possible but absolutely necessary. There's Sarah's husband,Richard, sending away for mail order pornography, at war with his owndesires, and loosing in the end. And then there's Todd's husband, Kathy, adocumentary filmmaker, beautiful, gorgeous, and frustrated at Todd'sunwillingness to re-enter the workforce.
There are some wonderfully funny moments in Little Children: In one sceneduring a local church service, Larry, irreverently pulls Ronnie, the childmolester's pants down to the chagrin of the other worshipers. And inanother scene, when Sarah goes to a meeting to discuss the adulterousaspects of Madame Bovery, the subject keeps returning to illicit sex.Perrotta desperately wants us to like his characters in all theirpassivity and honesty; but frustration always lurks underneath, and theresult is a narrative that creeps up on you and builds in intensity.Little Children is a tremendously entertaining and unexpectedly vigorousnovel, which should provide the reader with many hours of readingpleasure. Mike Leonard April 04.