For such an experience horror writer I’m a bit disappointed by Little Girls. Writer Ronald Malfi tells the story of Laurie, her husband Ted, and their child Susan as they return to Laurie’s childhood home. Her father has just died under tragic circumstances and they arrive in hopes to quickly settle the estate. Laurie, already fragile from an episode the year before, becomes haunted by the circumstances of her father’s death and stories of his dementia. Is she too losing her mind, or is there something sinister from her past looking for revenge?
What stuck with me while reading is the several paths Laurie goes down with her family and how they run parallel but don’t align in the story. Malfi builds his characters with existing tropes and supplements this with details that don’t add to the central story he’s trying to tell. The whole time Ted was calling her crazy, Laurie was calling herself crazy and everything around her was saying the opposite. And when vindicated in the final pages, she so easily believes her unreliable husband and goes right back to, “Well, guess I must be crazy then.”
Also disappointing was the lack of a relationship between Laurie and her daughter. Laurie was so detached without reason. She also constantly accosted herself by either feeling like she hated children, and feeling as if her only purpose was as disciplinarian. Susan responded as being indifferent to her mother while she was doted on by her father. Having been a stay-at-home mom for the last year, it doesn’t add up. In fact, the ending feels that much worse because of the disconnect between the the family.
Also bothersome was the excessive amount of detail. It became overwhelming at times that I would start to skim the words to get to the point of the sentence. The bloat of detail gave me the impression of the first time writer. While the writing by Malfi isn’t bad and by no means would I avoid him in the future, it does leave an impression on me as a reader.
Despite these faults Malfi has great potential in his ability to craft a tale. I hope to see better things of him in the future. Little Girls is available June 30th from Kensington.