Saturday, February 26, 2011

BOOK: Little Children by Tom Perrotta

Little Children by Tom Perrotta, 319 pages

What's in a Name 4? stage of life in title

Great story with lots of characters who all get a back story. It's mostly about Sarah and Todd, two suburban parents who meet on the playground and begin an affair. There is also another story about a recently released sexual offender, Ron, and his difficulties in integrating into the same suburban neighbourhood. The plot is thin, as we follow Sarah and Todd and Ron throughout the summer. Todd takes up football, Sarah joins a book club and rediscovers Madame Bovary. The toddlers are toddlers, interfering with the parents attempts to get together. I'm not making this sound very enticing, but Perrotta writes a great tale in an easy style, and I flew through the book, judging the characters and their bad decisions as I read. Hey, I'm as suburban as these characters, who do lots of judging of each other. Lots of flawed, unhappy characters, including Sarah and Todd's respective spouses. I'm not sure why the sexual offender story was there, as it felt like two different stories. I see how they came together at the end, but it wasn't really necessary and added a few extra characters who had bigger roles than were needed.

Little Children has been made into a movie, which I haven't seen. I'd certainly be interested in reading another Perrotta novel, like The Abstinence Teacher.  He wrote about real people, not perfect by any means, but people you recognize, especially if you hang around the playground very much. Lots of the blurbs on the inside describe it as 'hysterical' and 'wickedly funny' and 'laugh out loud moments'. I wouldn't go that far at all - funny isn't the word, but still an enjoyable read.

Little complaint: Lightning happens at the same time as thunder, but if you aren't where they happen, you'll see the lightning first, then hear the thunder. Light travels faster than sound. "...another boom of thunder, this one considerably louder than the first, and followed seconds later by a cracking spike of lightning." page 121. This error is repeated in the next paragraph as well, only the lightning happens even sooner after the thunder. This took me right out of the story, as I had to reread this to see if that's what he meant. Basic high school science, dear editors.