Title: Little Night
Author: Luanne Rice
Release Date: June 5, 2012
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Claire Burke is happy with her life, but she misses her sister, Anne, desperately. Twenty years ago, Claire tried to intervene between Anne and her abusive husband, Frederick. Anne lied to protect Frederick, and Claire ended up in jail for assault. Since then, the sisters have had no contact, and Claire hasn’t seen or heard from her niece and nephew since. That is, until Claire receives a letter from her niece, Grit, asking if she can come stay for awhile. While Claire is thrilled that Grit has reached out to her, the letter has opened up old wounds that Claire was hoping had healed.
Little Night is a novel that focuses on the bond between family, and more specifically, that between sisters. Despite the fact Claire wanted to protect her sister and instead ended up going to jail because of Anne’s lies, she still thinks about her and wishes she were a part of her life. However, as a result of Claire’s experiences in prison, she has trouble with commitment. Those years almost ruined her life, and it has taken her a very long time to rebuild. In many ways, it’s clear that Claire is fragile, that another setback might send her over the edge. That’s why it’s gratifying, yet difficult, that Grit has reached out to her – while the reader, of course, hopes for healing, they fear that Grit may hurt Claire even more.
One thing that Little Night does very well is examine the difficult nature of domestic abuse. Anne is a victim, there’s no doubt about that. But at what point does the victim become complicit, especially when she turns her anger on her children or refuses to protect them from an abuser? Claire refuses to believe that her sweet-natured sister has become an abuser herself, but it’s something the reader must consider. At what point does the abusee become the abuser? But then again, if she’s completely under Frederick’s control, is she really responsible for what she does? These are provocative questions, and readers will find themselves pondering these issues long after the last pages are turned.
The story of Little Night moves at a brisk pace. Rice develops her characters very well; Claire and Grit are both fully realized, three-dimensional women, but very much as in life, they aren’t perfect. Rice does a great job keeping the story suspenseful, which isn’t an easy thing considering the reader has a pretty good idea of what is going to happen at the end of the book.
Readers who enjoy women’s fiction and stories about sisters shouldn’t hesitate to pick up Little Night. Rice does an excellent job with her storyline and characters, making this an easy novel to zip through in one sitting. Book clubs should definitely consider this book, as the abuse storyline engenders many questions, and readers will find themselves itching to discuss this novel as they read it.
Other books by Luanne Rice: