The Little Friend by Donna Tartt
Rating: 3.5 / 5
The setting is Alexandria, Mississippi, where one Mother’s Day a little boy named Robin Cleve Dufresnes was found hanging from a tree in his parents’ yard. Twelve years later Robin’s murder is still unsolved and his family remains devastated. So it is that Robin’s sister Harriet – unnervingly bright, insufferably determined, and unduly influenced by the fiction of Kipling and Robert Louis Stevenson–sets out to unmask his killer. Aided only by her worshipful friend Hely, Harriet crosses her town’s rigid lines of race and caste and burrows deep into her family’s history of loss.
I have read and loved both The Goldfinch and The Secret History so when I picked up The Little Friend from my library I was expecting to adore it with the same amount of intensity as the others. Sadly, I was disappointed. Donna Tartt is a wordsmith; there is no denying that. She constructs sentences with such lovely description I have to stop and reread the passages many times. The writing and the full-fledged characters are what kept me from putting this book down. Although beautiful, the book could have been shortened at least by a hundred pages. Set up as a murder mystery in Mississippi in the 1970’s, one would think this would be about the young Harriett setting off to find her brothers killer. Instead the plot seems to go off into so many different directions that I found myself getting lost in the switching narratives and changing perspectives. It is a story of southern racial tensions, innocence and cruelty.
Unable to kill her, the cancer had taken up residence within her, and made her its comfortable home- nesting in her ribcage, rooted firmly and pushing its tentacle tips up through the surface of her skin in a matter of black moles- so (it seemed to Eugene) if someone was to cut Gum open at this point, there was apt to be no blood in her at all, only a mass of poisonous sponge.