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Little Broken Things


Little Broken Things

The Sanford children were raised in Key Lake, a small beachy town in Minnesota where one could be certain that the smallest bit of information traveled from person to person as consistently as the tide rolling in and out. And Liz and Jack saw to it that their kids were being raised to their exacting specifications --- respectful, buttoned-up members of society --- an idyllic image to maintain at all times. Nora rebelled at an early age against the rigid “because I said so” environment and left the nest without a backward glance. Quinn played the part of the good girl, right up until she decided to attend college out of state and marry an artist (a decidedly not Sanford-approved husband). And Jack Jr., never quite maturing to his potential, married his high school sweetheart and disappeared into a separate life altogether.

As an adult, the last thing Quinn wants to do is leave California and move back to her hometown. However, without a husband with a steady, consistent income and no employment prospects for herself, she and Walker take up residence in one of the Sanford rental properties on the lake --- right under the watchful eye of her widowed mother, who can’t understand why her children have become so distant. But when Quinn receives a one-line text from Nora, the words start a series of events into motion that will irrevocably touch everyone’s lives...whether they’re ready or not.

"LITTLE BROKEN THINGS is just the right mixture of mystery and drama with a healthy dose of heart that will compel you to keep turning pages."

LITTLE BROKEN THINGS immediately demanded my attention. Nicole Baart drops readers into the action and picks up steam with every chapter.

The novel is told from four points of view: Liz, Quinn, Nora, and Nora’s best friend, Tiffany. Seeing through the lenses of this vivid cast of women was my favorite part of the book, but experiencing the story from these perspectives was both a blessing and a curse. Each voice added color and interest, but the characters’ paths rarely cross, scattering the focus and making it challenging for the author to explore each individual journey in depth.

Key Lake is the perfect, lightly atmospheric setting for this novel --- one can practically hear the water lapping the shore or smell the smoke from a beach bonfire --- and nature subtly depicts the truth happening in the plot. The scene might look calm, but the peace is deceptive and can be disrupted in no time at all.

The Sanford family relationships are understandably fragmented when the story begins, but as I flew through the pages, it was increasingly difficult to understand how they related to each other. Nora clearly trusts Quinn with her secret, but it’s apparent that they have very little contact or communication in the regular course of their lives. Liz feels hurt because she doesn’t have a relationship with her children, though she all but ignores Quinn (who is living right next door) for a large portion of the book. Additionally, because the adult Sanford children were shaped by their upbringing, I found myself wanting even more flashbacks to fill out the contemporary plotlines. The story could have used stronger attention to the relational dynamics, but Baart does mete out just enough to make the book an enjoyable cover-to-cover read.

One of the book’s greatest strengths is the pacing. Drawing readers into the layered plot, Baart builds momentum not only with actions the characters take, but also with the nuggets of truths revealed about them along the way. While I was swept into the story, the twists were not “twisty” enough to surprise me. In fact, given the depth of the subject matter, the novel’s eventual resolution seemed a little neat and tidy for my taste.

Nevertheless, LITTLE BROKEN THINGS is just the right mixture of mystery and drama with a healthy dose of heart that will compel you to keep turning pages.

Reviewed by Amy Haddock on November 22, 2017

Little Broken Things
by Nicole Baart

  • Publication Date: November 21, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books
  • ISBN-10: 1501133608
  • ISBN-13: 9781501133602