Behind the hospital curtain, someone is waiting . . .
After a traumatic birth, Lauren is alone on the maternity ward with her newborn twins. Her husband has gone home. The nurses are doing their rounds. She can’t stop thinking about every danger her babies now face. But all new mothers think like that. Don’t they?
A terrifying encounter in the middle of the night leaves Lauren convinced someone or something is trying to steal her children. But with every step she takes to keep her babies safe, Lauren sinks deeper and deeper into paranoia and fear. From the stark loneliness of returning home after birth, to the confines of a psychiatric unit, Lauren’s desperation increases as no one will listen to her. But here’s the question: is she mad, or does she know something we don’t?
Thank you to the publisher for providing me with an advanced readers copy. This did not influence my opinion in any way.
Deliciously Dark and Disturbing
Little Darlings mixes the realistic struggles Lauren faces, like her husband’s unwillingness to be a partner in taking care of the twins, with dark tales and folklore. The well-balanced mix of these two allows the readers to be pulled into Lauren’s life and to gain a strong understanding of the woman in the process. Even so, it is nearly impossible to decide just far how the paranormal goes, or if it even exists. I’ve read quite a few books where the characters’ struggle to distinguish between real and imaginary made the story dull repetitive, however, Golding strikes the perfect balance, making Little Darling a fascinating novel.
Confusion & Ambiguity for the Win
The two main characters, mother Lauren and Detective Jo Harper, are both forced to reevaluate their views on the paranormal world. Lauren’s belief in the supernatural grows rapidly; as the novel progresses her questions and doubts diminish more and more, yet, they are present. Jo, on the other hand, is always on the look out for a natural explanation, for actual proof, as opposed to legends or tales. Whenever the idea of the supernatural strikes her, she quickly explains it away, without giving much thought to it, but the idea is still there.
Seeing such a strong parallel between Lauren and Jo creates a fantastic dynamic that will leave the readers guessing as to what is real. After all, how can we believe Lauren? She is seemingly unable to tell reality from imaginary, all the while being 99% convinced of her truth. But we can’t fully trust Jo’s judgement, can we? Even when the only explanation is the supernatural she seems unable to think it through critically, and instead ignores her original perception and promptly forgets about it.
Jo Is an A+ Leading Lady
I’m so obsessed with this woman!? I don’t really read detective books – and probably wouldn’t have requested Little Darling had I known it was one – but wow, Jo is certainly an interesting heroine. She is smart, resourceful and hardworking, not to mention that she is not afraid to go behind her boss’s back if that’s what it takes to solve a crime. What we’ve seen from her backstory is also fascinating, and I’ll be incredibly sad if Little Darlings doesn’t get a sequel, because I need more of Jo.
I’m not going to say this is the most diverse or intersectional book ever, but it certainly tried harder than your usual adult mystery-thriller. I was so pleasantly surprised to read that Jo is bisexual and I found her friendship and light flirting with Amy very, very cute. As friends, they have a rather interesting dynamic going on – Jo is a detective having to keep every investigation top secret, while Amy is a reporter, trying to dig out all the details. I love how despite that, they had such a trusting and lovely friendship – if Amy said something was off the record, it was 1000% off the record. Unfortunately, this ship never sails, but I’m really hoping for a sequel here, friends.
Left to Your Imagination
Fair warning, if (somewhat) unclosed endings leave you dissatisfied, Little Darlings probably isn’t for you. While Golding doesn’t leave everything to our imagination, she seems to enjoy ambiguity, and so certain questions are left for the readers to ponder over. I’m not always fond of unclosed endings myself, but in Little Darlings it works rather well; and I have to say, a fully explained ending probably wouldn’t have been as impactful or realistic. So rest assured, while there are some things that haven’t been fully explained concerning the mystery, the ending is neat enough to leave you feeling content.
Do you enjoy when realistic struggles are mixed together with the paranormal? Why/Why not? What about ambiguity, or unreliable narrators? Do you have any recommendations for thriller/horror novels that have diverse characters – bonus if they are OwnVoices?