Little Lovely Things
Little Lovely Things, the début novel from author Maureen Joyce Connolly, is a deftly plotted family drama that focuses on every parent’s worst nightmare, the disappearance of two little girls. This theme is explored quite often in today’s fiction, but Ms. Connolly manages to bring something new to this familiar trope, making Little Lovely Things a novel that stands out from the crowd.
Claire Rawlings is a busy wife, mother, and medical student who is doing her best to manage all the facets of a life that sometimes feels too full for her liking. She seldom has a moment to herself, but she can’t imagine wanting things any other way.
One morning, Claire wakes up feeling unwell, attributing her illness to an allergic reaction to a dose of vaccines she received recently. Her husband Glenn urges her to take the day off, but Claire is nothing if not dedicated to her patients. She tells him she’ll drop fifteen-month-old Lily and four-year-old Andrea off at daycare before heading to the hospital, and he reluctantly agrees. But as Claire begins driving toward the daycare center, she begins to feel worse and worse by the moment. Fearing she will pass out at the wheel, she pulls into the parking lot of a nearby gas station, and hurries into the bathroom, leaving Andrea and Lily sleeping in the back seat of the car.
The next thing she knows, Claire is waking up on the bathroom floor. It’s obvious something is very wrong with her, but her main concern is for her daughters. She struggles to her feet and dashes out to the parking lot, only to discover that her car is gone, and so are the girls. The police are called immediatelyand a massive search for the missing children begins not long afterward.
Days pass with no sign of Andrea and Lily. Claire is recovering in a local hospital while Glenn and Claire’s sister Vicky do everything they can to locate the girls. But it’s not until Jay White, a Native American man with a troubled past, unearths a clue deep in a nearby forest that the Rawlings family finally learns a dark and disturbing truth about the fate of their missing daughters.
Little Lovely Things is a multi-layered story that explores parental guilt and love, coupled with the strain of tragedy on a once happy marriage. Claire blames herself for losing the girls, and even though he has never come right out and said so, she’s convinced Glenn blames her as well. These two broken people grow further and further apart until almost nothing of their once vibrant love remains.
Jay is one of this story’s shining stars. He’s led a hard life, partly because of the prejudice he’s encountered from those who dislike Native Americans, but also due to some poor choices he’s made. I wasn’t sure initially if he was someone I was supposed to trust, but it soon became clear that he really wanted to get to the bottom of what happened to Lily and Andrea. He has a touch of ESP, and this added an extra bit of intrigue to this already phenomenal tale.
This is one of those stories where the reader learns the truth way before some of the characters do. We know exactly who kidnapped the children, and in fact, we even spend some time in the head of one of the kidnappers. Some readers might dislike this style of storytelling, but I really enjoyed watching Claire, Jay, and the police struggle to put the pieces together.
Parts of the book are quite dark, so be aware of this before going in. I imagine most readers of the genre expect a certain amount of grit in their books, but there are a few scenes I found particularly disturbing, so I thought it would be worth adding a quick note of caution.
My one quibble with this novel has to do with the conclusion. Certain plot points are wrapped up quite nicely, but a few are left dangling. It would have been nice if the author had included an epilogue, which would have enabled readers to see how things turned out for all of the characters, both the good and the bad. As it stands, I’m left with a few questions.
This is not a perfect story, but it’s one I enjoyed wholeheartedly in spite of its few flaws. Ms. Connolly has earned a place on my list of authors to watch out for, and I can’t wait to see what she’ll do next.