A PORTRAIT OF PRIMAL, TANGLED FAMILY TIES — A REVIEW

 

 

In the opening pages of Little Night: A Novel, the reader is thrust into the aftermath of domestic violence, and the consequences for one young woman who risked everything to protect her sister.

Unfortunately, the control Frederik Rasmussen wielded over his wife Anne and their two children is the kind of hold often exerted by men who must monitor every thought, feeling, and action of those he calls “his.” This kind of domination is most effective within an isolated unit such as the one this perpetrator has created.

When Anne follows her husband into his darkness and lies to the police and in court, her sister Clare is sentenced to prison.

What happens in the years that follow sets the scene for some kind of reunion or redemption, but that does not happen. Instead, Clare comes home one day to a letter from her niece Grit, who is announcing her plan to visit.

In flashes backward and forward, the story progresses, showing a bit about how Clare and Anne grew up and how that family dynamic created the secrecy, the tendency to hide, and even the sneaky following of those they loved.

What is interesting in these kinds of families is that not all of the children grow up to be in abusive relationships. Sometimes one or more family members are the designated “rescuers,” like Clare.

How does Grit’s moving in on Clare’s solitude as an urban birder and blogger virtually change the landscape of her life? What will Grit bring to Clare that will help enlighten her about her sister’s life? And how will Anne finally show herself in the end?

Of course Frederik was an obnoxious creature with no redeeming value, in my opinion. He is not really typical of abusers; they often have some charming characteristics that hook their victims. In this way, he was not real to me.

Anne was also not a convincing character to me, but another caricature, like Frederik. The two were drawn in bold strokes of extremes, perhaps to accentuate the hold an abuser has on those around him.

Grit was another unlikeable character with sneaky, intrusive qualities that made it hard to relate to her or root for her. And yet again, her behavior could definitely occur within the framework of such a family home.

An interesting study in family dysfunction, which I enjoyed, for the most part. The ending felt anticlimactic to me. 3.5 stars.

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