“Simple reviews from a simple reader…”
Zakk reviews “Little Girls” by Ronald Malfi. 384 pages published by Kensington Books
Overall Score: 4.5/5
“…She had expected her old childhood home to look different—empty, perhaps, like the molted skin of a reptile left behind in the dirt, as if the old house had nothing left to do but wither and die just as its master had done.”
The Genarro family (husband Ted, wife Laurie & daughter Susan) is returning to Laurie’s childhood home to settle the estate of her recently deceased, and mentally unstable, estranged father. The madness haunting Laurie’s father still seems to be echoing from the walls, adding further strain to the Genarro’s tenuous relationship.
Whispers, footsteps, slammed doors, someone appears to be sneaking into the home to torment Laurie (the same way her father was tormented). Could it be Susan’s new friend Abigail, the young girl from next door, who is the spitting image of a girl that died on the property during Laurie’s youth, or is this merely a stress related phenomenon?
Who or what is making the commotion behind padlocked belvedere door? And will the Genarro family dynamic survive the secrets about to be revealed?
“There were uncharted depths within her daughter, just as there were in all little girls…”
I greatly dislike the term “slow burn”. It’s thrown about quite often, usually by someone involved in the creation of a piece (being film or literature). The term has become cliche and is (more often than not) used to hide the fact that said piece is dull, boring. I will not pay “Little Girls” a disservice by calling it a slow burn. Although at times it does saunter, it is with purpose. Not for a moment is it dull, never boring. Those looking for a balls-to-the-wall horror jaunt may leave disappointed, if only slightly. But for readers prepared to sift through adult, real world scares, “Little Girls” is a highly effective, goose flesh raising, character driven, psychological think piece. With more than one punch to the breadbasket.
Mr. Malfi has created a solid cast of multidimensional characters. Fleshed out and given breath, everyone here has a role to play with no waste or filler. From our main cast, the Genarro family to Laurie’s unstable father to the caretakers in charge of his wellbeing. Even the home itself is an effective presence. The only character left ambiguous is that of Abigail, the possible doppelgänger Sadie, and with good reason. The reality of this dynamic is left open to interpretation with either possibility being pretty heavy.
There is a constant sense of unease as the Genarro family works through it’s troubles, least of which being that of Laurie’s deceased father. Secrets from the past begin to surface within each character, things intentionally hidden and things unintentionally blocked from memory. I found myself completely invested in this family, so when the punches start getting thrown, they land with a serious emotional impact.
It is a perfect “late night in the dark” read and I am not ashamed to say that at one point in the wee hours, I put the book down and got out of bed to make sure that all of the doors and windows were locked. Which made me smile, considering the story.
“Little Girls” is my first Ronald Malfi novel experience. I feel a bit embarrassed to say that now, given how much I liked this. I have read “The Boy in the Lot” but that was just a real brief teaser for his novel “The Narrows”. My Kindle tells me that I have “The Floating Staircase” collecting dust for the last two years and the recently purchased 750ish page epic “December Park” laughing at me. And I can’t help but to ask, firstly, what the hell is wrong with me and, secondly when is my next open period? A week or two with nothing scheduled and I can read at my leisure…. because I see some more Ronald Malfi fiction in my future.
“My brother became my father, and our fathers are the ones who hold the lamplight so we can find our way in the dark.”
Zakk is a big dumb animal.