Little Children by Tom Perrotta is one interesting book from start to finish – even the cover with its artificial green turf and two partially eaten chocolate cookies piqued my interest before I started reading. It is one of those books where you initially think, “Hmmm...What is this going to be about?” A quick read of the blurb of the book tells you it is about a group of thirty-something parents living in your proverbial suburban neighborhoods as they eke out their daily lives.
While a book about life in suburbia in and of itself may not sound particularly fascinating, Little Children is such an interesting book. Yes, it is about a group of thirty-something parents raising their kids in suburbia – but it is one heck of a story. The parents appear to be your average group of middle to upper-middle class folks who are working and raising their young children. However, a closer look reveals an intriguing cast of characters.
Todd is a stay-at-home father who cannot seem to pass the bar exam, much to the dismay of his wife who is anxiously awaiting her husband to become a high-powered and highly compensated attorney. Todd’s golden-boy good looks have earned him the label “The Prom King” by other moms at the playground. One of the moms is Sarah, a lapsed feminist in a faltering marriage to a man who has an obsession with used women’s panties – as long as they do not belong to his wife. Sarah’s alter ego and archrival of sorts is Mary Ann, who appears to be the perfect mother and has every moment of her children’s days scheduled – in addition to the fact that she schedules weekly sex with her husband every Tuesday night at 9:00 p.m. Sarah can barely stand to be in Mary Ann’s presences, and she is pining for some new or exciting in her dull life. Todd fits the bill.
The focus of the book is on Sarah and Todd and their individual marriages, which have different issues and problems, along with their burgeoning flirtatious friendship which quickly develops into a full-blown affair. A second plot that follows throughout the course of the novel is equally interesting – a convicted child molester moves into the neighborhood, and the parents are up in arms over the “pervert” who lives on Blueberry Court. Todd’s friend Larry, a hotheaded ex-cop on full disability, makes the “neighborhood pervert” his personal pet project of sorts – basically by making his life in their neighborhood unlivable.
Little Children is unique and deftly written with rich feeling, in addition to being quite a page-turner. The entire novel is well-paced, and an unexpected level of suspense pervades throughout the story. The imperfect characters are tantalizing, and the reader cannot help but turn page after to page to anxiously (but pleasurably) read about one eventful summer in this formerly quiet suburban neighborhood. Perrotta also has a witty sense of humor, and I found myself smiling or even laughing out loud throughout various points of the story, although the novel itself is deep and delves into hefty issues such as marital problems, infidelity, parenting and deviant sexual addictions. Fans of general fiction and literary fiction will enjoy Little Children, and it will appeal to both male and female readers.