If Guillermo del Toro hasn’t already bought the rights to this story, he should. Like Günter Grass’ THE TIN DRUM, LITTLE NOTHING is about a small person for whom the world becomes a sad and scary place, but her sense of bravery and her dreams are far bigger than anything that can work against her. Pavla is a dwarf, and the road to helping her overcome her physical affliction sets her on a path that is at times more dangerous than she ever could have imagined. Her future path is lined with all the men whom she loves and fears, and the way she deals with each haunting memory changes not only Pavla but the reader as well.
Pavla means “little,” and she is often reduced to helping out her plumber dad by crawling into small spots and disgusting tunnels, assisting his work. Her parents are her greatest fans; they admire her far-reaching intellect and immense courage, and vow to do what they can to make her adult life easier and more comfortable for her. Her idyllic childhood is helped by her incredible physical beauty; although small in size, she is big in the looks department. Her beautiful face forces local hecklers to change their tunes, and it brings her the love of Danilo, a young assistant to Dr. Smetanka who vows to cure her dwarfism. With the blessings of her hopeful parents, the doctor tries, with Danilo’s help, to make things right for Pavla, but the cruel and unusually harsh treatment causes her further pain and changes the course of her life forever.
"LITTLE NOTHING is a siren call to self-acceptance, yet tells its story with a fantastical bent that will engage the reader. It’s a wild ride, one that combines literary skill and wages an emotional battle like no other."
It also gives Pavla the enduring love of Danilo, who finds ways to fill her life with what he considers the best alternative for her adulthood.
Danilo is devoted as only a great lifelong love can be, and he and Pavla undergo many tests to their love throughout their lives. Her care and compassion never fail, and it is with these qualities that she manages to help Danilo choose a better life path, after having been an accomplice to the insane medical maneuvers that ruined her beauty. Under the guise of Wolf Girl, she enters a freak show run by the doctor, where she is hounded and terrorized. It is Danilo who helps her escape and find a path in the outside world that alters both their lives.
LITTLE NOTHING is a rare story about a human with an extreme disability who finds grace and humor in its elements. It offers an alternate universe look at the ways in which one person, by challenging and accepting oneself, can impact and change the world at large. The idea of love and what it constitutes changes throughout Pavla’s life and, with it, ours as well. While audiences will react strongly to the situations that occur throughout Pavla and Danilo’s story, they will rise as well and rejoice in the strength and bravery with which Pavla prevails against her undoers. LITTLE NOTHING is a siren call to self-acceptance, yet tells its story with a fantastical bent that will engage the reader. It’s a wild ride, one that combines literary skill and wages an emotional battle like no other.
Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on September 23, 2016