What a fantastic first novel by Melanie Golding! “Little Darlings” stands out for a couple of reasons:
- terrifically well-developed & relevant characters (and not too many of them!)
- short chapters with great pacing
- each chapter begins with a quote from an interesting Grimm or old superstitious tale
- Kirkus, Library Reads and Booklist all gave it starred reviews (which I did NOT know until I already read it, but it makes me so gratified!)
I appreciate a plot-driven story that doesn’t take too long to become engaged. I’m a
lazy impatient reader of fiction and do not appreciate when an author takes 100 pages to “set the tone” with all sorts of extraneous details that DO NOT MATTER. I was completely immersed after a few pages and ended up finishing the book in a day, probably due to the pace and structure. It offers exactly the right amount of “creepy and sinister” without veering into “crazy-and-unrealistic” terrain.
In the opening pages, a disturbing event has occurred; the main character Lauren is about to walk into a river with two babies, and the inference is that she intends to harm them. She is surrounded by law enforcement, her family, and even a helicopter.
From this point, Golding flashes the reader back in time to a month before when Lauren has just given birth to twin boys after a long, drawn-out labor and delivery. From early on, it’s apparent her husband Patrick is a narcissistic slacker of the highest order and she’s headed for a crash course into post-partum depression. He leaves her alone at the hospital to go home so he’ll get a good night’s sleep – big red flag!
A few hours after the rough delivery, a scary “visitor” appears in her hospital room demanding Lauren’s new babies. She barricades herself and the babies in the bathroom and calls for help. The 911 call and brief police investigation make you fear for the exhausted new mother’s safety. A few days later she receives an unusual baby gift and sees a mysterious stranger near her home. In an even more sinister turn, an exhausted Lauren takes the babies to the park, and when she accidentally dozes off and wakes up, the babies are gone. Fortunately, they are quickly found, but Lauren is convinced the babies returned to her, are not HER babies. You begin to wonder: Is Lauren having a psychotic break? Are these events actually happening? Is her loser husband behind this? Or, could Patrick actually be a good guy struggling to do the right thing? “Little Darlings” will keep you speculating until the end!
Melanie Golding did a fabulous job with “Little Darlings”; it’s a creative, creepy story, slightly reminiscent of Michael McDowell’s “Blackwater” series books I enjoyed many years ago. I eagerly anticipate future projects by Golding. If my recommendation hasn’t convinced you maybe this will!