Little Broken Things: A Novel by Nicole Bart

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She knew that their lives were far from perfect, that things shimmered just beneath the surface of their shiny facade.

Just who are ‘the little broken things’? Is it the scared little girl, ‘the something’ her sister Nora seems to be lending her? Just whose child is she and what sort of mess is her older sister Nora wrapped up in? How is Quin supposed to keep a little girl secret, especially from their uptight mother? Lucy is a mystery, and Nora is gone leaving nothing to fill the holes of the child’s mysterious existence. How dare she do this, but is it so surprising? Quin always comes when she beckons, almost like a slave. How does Nora seem to always call the shots?  Though the two have a strained relationship, Quin knows she must help her sister, whatever it is she is involved in is bigger than their damaged bond.

The things that make families drift apart are sometimes small, insidious things that eat away at them over time. Secrets we keep from ourselves and each other, though, have a way of coming out. This is the case with the characters in this novel. The matriarch watches over her daughters, but is also removed. Maybe once she was bold, but marriage to Jack Sr. turned her into the model wife, never saying no, keeping the kingdom running smoothly and comfortable for it’s master. Her girls are stronger, bolder- as she once had been too. Liz is order, and her children are chaos. Her Nora, the one to always ask “why”, Liz ‘ the secret keeper’, the one who doesn’t need her, and Jack Jr ‘JJ’ the same as his father, in control. Now with Jack Sr gone, she is free to watch over the lake and spy on her daughter- making hiding a child that much more impossible. Liz doesn’t approve of her daughter’s husband, she knows it won’t last, and watching them from Jack’s telescope, now hers, only proves she is right. Misunderstandings and the distance between mother and daughter paint a picture of a family that desperately needs one another, but are in their own way. Watching the struggle Liz has in showing her love is painful, how do people get to that point? Why do her children leave? She must prove how good home is! Why can’t she accept Walker, Quin’s husband?

Quin soon knows who Lucy really is, or does she? She is furious with Nora, because Lucy’s existence will ‘change everything.’ The reader begins to understand why Nora isdesperate to hide the child, it’s disturbing and at times confusing. We meet Tiffany through Nora’s chapters. Tiffany is a key player in the novel, and one has to wonder why Jack Sr hated her, judged the young girl so harshly. JJ isn’t close to his sisters, and he sort of floats on the edges of the story. You think you know where you’re going, but it flips on you.

I slowly began to figure things out before the end, which wasn’t quite the explosive ending I expected yet it works for this novel. The beauty of the novel for me wasn’t so much the danger, but the damage we do with our expectations. The blindness we suffer when our own emotions are at the forefront, the pain it causes those we want to protect. Families are a strange experiment, and seem composed of everything that tests who we are. They are all little broken things, in their own strange way. But the question is, can they be patched up? Can a mysterious child be a bridge, or will she be the final blow that fractures the family beyond repair.

I enjoyed some of the characters and others didn’t seem fully formed. I do think it will be a popular read though. I think it’s hard to accept Quin sort of going along, I imagine most of us would be demanding answers before taking any child in, but maybe that is to express just how much Quin follows her big sister’s lead, even against her will.  JJ never felt real to me, he just wasn’t in the novel enough for my liking. I felt frustrated and I am not sure how I feel about Tiffany and everything that happens, the ending left me with a few questions but I leave it to other readers.

Publication Date: November 21, 2017

Atria Books

 

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