“Running might take her forward, it could even take her home; but it couldn’t take her back–not ten minutes, ten hours, not ten years or days. And that was tough, as Hely would say. Tough: since back was the way she wanted to go, since the past was the only place she wanted to be.”
– The Little Friend, Donna Tartt
The description of this book (- “The setting is Alexandria, Mississippi, where one Mother’s Day a little boy named Robin Cleve Dufresnes was found hanging from a tree in his parents’ yard. Twelve years later Robin’s murder is still unsolved and his family remains devastated. So it is that Robin’s sister Harriet – unnervingly bright, insufferably determined, and unduly influenced by the fiction of Kipling and Robert Louis Stevenson–sets out to unmask his killer.” -) makes it sound like a quirky murder mystery. This is not what this book is about. The book follows the lives of various characters in the Mississippi town. This book is not about Robin’s death, not about who and why, but of the aftermath of his death – the devastation that carries through the lives of his family, and which seeps out into the lives of others. Harriet, neglected and looking for someone to blame for her miserable family life, targets a local petty criminal as the source of it all – Robin’s killer. There is a dark humour in the ensuing tricks that she plays on him, and the way it feeds into his own and his families paranoia. There they are imagining rival gangs targeting them, not a bitter 11 year old with too much freedom. This is a long book, overly descriptive, but also enchanting, easy to get lost in. The writing is vivid and beautiful, it feels real and there is an underlying sense of dread, of impending disaster, that also pulls you through the book, wanting to see how it all unfolds, waiting for it all to go belly up. I liked it, don’t regret the hours I spent listening to it but…I do wish there was a stronger conclusion. The book just ends, with no real conclusion or resolution. It was disappointing to invest 24 hours into this thing for such an unsatisfying non-conclusion.
As an aside, there is a horrifying amount of animal cruelty in this book that made me feel rather queasy and was difficult to get through. Those lurid descriptions were not welcome in those scenes.
Audible notes – beautiful, really beautiful audiobook. All the voices from male to female, young and old, felt natural. Very well paced. Bit hard to follow such a descriptive, meandering book in audio form, but that’s the book, not the telling of it.