Desperate Housepeople

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Little Children by Tom Perrotta

Tom Perrotta’s thirtyish parents of young children are a varied and surprising bunch. There’s Todd, the handsome stay-at-home dad dubbed “The Prom King” by the moms at the playground, and his wife, Kathy, a documentary filmmaker envious of the connection Todd has forged with their toddler son. And there’s Sarah, a lapsed feminist surprised to find she’s become a typical wife in a traditional marriage, and her husband, Richard, who is becoming more and more involved with an internet fantasy life than with his own wife and child.

And then there’s Mary Ann, who has life all figured out, down to a scheduled roll in the hay with her husband every Tuesday at nine P.M.
They all raise their kids in the kind of quiet suburb where nothing ever seems to happen – until one eventful summer, when a convicted child molester moves back to town, and two parents begin an affair that goes further than either of them could ever have imagined.

Coined as a dark-comedy, Little Children explores modern families and its ups-downs in an introspective and ridiculous manner. We have a couple of seemingly cliched but absorbing bunch of characters: Sarah is a whiny woman who enters an affair with the young and handsome Todd, also a whiny man who seems as lost as she is. Sarah’s husband is a porn addict and Todd’s wife is a career woman who acts more like Todd’s mother than his wife, pushing him to take law even though he doesn’t want to. Larry, a retired policeman, is obsessed in catching ex-convict Ronnie in the act– The book is rich of unlikable characters and polarizing imagery that Perrotta writes with a crisp and fresh voice.

Perrotta continuously makes his characters interact with each other and keeps the neighborhood affairs bright, colorful and controversial, making it an interesting read until the end. You could make out a 24-episode soap out of the premise and you could either hate it or like it– both I experienced at the same time. I liked it because it was an insightful read about adults coping up with adulthood, quite like teenagers coping up with, um, being teenagers. However, this wasn’t a book for me as I am not married nor do I have any children that I know of, and so much of the satire is lost to me. It was hard to read a porn addict’s perspective, more so a sex offender’s, but what I honestly found it most difficult to read was Todd and Sarah’s adulterous relationship and the stuff they think that justify it. The irony of these characters’s situations hits hard and I find myself sympathizing with them, all of them as a matter of fact, and it was more sad than humorous to be honest.

“After all, what was adult life but one moment of weakness piled on top of another? Most people just fell in line like obedient little children, doing exactly what society expected of them at any given moment, all the while pretending that they’d actually made some sort of choice.”

The Verdict: 3/5 Stars

Perhaps reading this ten years later would be a good idea.


About the Author

tompTom Perrotta is the author of five previous work of fiction: Bad Haircut, The Wishbones, Election, and the New York Times bestselling Joe College and Little Children. Election was made into the acclaimed 1999 movie directed by Alexander Payne and starring Matthew Broderick and Reese Witherspoon. Little Children was released as a movie directed by Todd Field and starring Kate Winslet and Jennifer Connelly in 2006, and for which Perrotta received Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations for best screenplay. He lives outside of Boston, Massachusetts. He is also known for his novel The Leftovers (2011), which has been adapted into a TV series on HBO. His influences in writing are Raymond Carver, Willa Cather, Stephen Crane, Ernest Hemingway, and Tobias Wolff. Macmillan Publishers | Website

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