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Little Monsters


Little Monsters

Adrienne Brodeur made quite a literary splash in 2019 with the publication of her memoir, WILD GAME, which centered on her own complicated relationship with her mother. Now, in LITTLE MONSTERS, Brodeur demonstrates that she can use fiction to continue to probe the complexities of family --- in this case, a family that has been hiding secrets for far too long.

The Gardners have been a fixture on Cape Cod for decades. Adam is a prominent whale researcher who recently has retired from the Cape Cod Institute of Oceanography. His son, Ken, is a thriving businessman, the head of a phenomenally successful chain of high-end retirement communities aimed at the 1% of baby boomers. With the support of his wife, Jenny, Ken is in the early stages of a run for a congressional seat. His sister, Abby, is a celebrated sculptor and painter. She teaches art at a local high school, but her newest paintings have attracted a great deal of buzz. She is poised for a big breakthrough after being selected for a profile in a major art magazine.

"Brodeur offers a nuanced and thoughtful portrait of Cape Cod and its culture.... LITTLE MONSTERS is a perceptive novel about a complicated family that will both infuriate and fascinate readers."

Clearly the Gardners have figured out the secret to success, right? Not so fast. It turns out that behind these facades lie a plethora of secrets --- some new, some dating back decades. Adam, for example, has bipolar disorder --- that’s not a secret, at least to his children --- but he secretly has decided that he knows better than his doctors about how and when to manage his moods through medication. The truth is that Adam is convinced he flourishes during his manic phases and has told himself that he’s on the brink of the biggest discovery of his career.

As for Ken and Jenny, their picture-perfect marriage hides dysfunction and alcoholism, among other secrets. And Abby is hiding one new secret while using her art to probe other, darker ones dating back to childhood. Then there’s a stranger in town, Steph, whose secret might threaten to destabilize the Gardners altogether.

Brodeur alternates between a number of characters’ points of view throughout the novel --- Adam’s grandiose, egotistical musings; Ken’s barely concealed rage; Jenny’s deeply conflicted feelings about the future; and Steph’s shifting perspectives on the family and herself. As the extent of their issues comes into focus, Adam’s 70th birthday party looms, an event that threatens to disrupt the family’s legacy once and for all. The chapter set during the party does feel a bit off-kilter, a marked and somewhat jarring shift from the approach Brodeur uses to great effect elsewhere.

Still, Brodeur offers a nuanced and thoughtful portrait of Cape Cod and its culture. She effectively introduces readers to the subtle cultural differences among various geographic regions of the Cape and the not-so-subtle animosities between wealthy homeowners and summer vacationers, while also writing with genuine fondness of the place’s land and seascapes. LITTLE MONSTERS is a perceptive novel about a complicated family that will both infuriate and fascinate readers.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on June 30, 2023

Little Monsters
by Adrienne Brodeur

  • Publication Date: May 7, 2024
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster
  • ISBN-10: 1982198117
  • ISBN-13: 9781982198114