I’ve been wanting to read something by Donna Tartt after reading a review of The Goldfinch (which I haven’t read yet), so when I saw The Little Friend, I snatched it up.
The Little Friend is a story told in the midst of really big issues, which include the unsolved murder of a child, family breakdown, mental illness and drug addiction. Obviously this isn’t a happy story, although there were some funny events.
The main character in the story is twelve year old Harriet, who was a baby when her older brother Robin was murdered in the front yard of their family home. Harriet’s parents separated after Robin’s murder and her father is almost completely absent from her life. Her mother is also emotionally absent, and Harriet and her sister Allison are cared for by their housekeeper, Ida Rhew, along with their grandmother, Edie and a tribe of great aunts.
The only males in the book of interest are Hely, Harriet’s friend who joins her in her search for her older brother’s murderer and the men in the Ratliff family who are all either drug manufacturers, users or pushers, snake handling preachers or in jail. The Ratliff’s are all crazy (mostly from drug use) and a mean, nasty bunch. Harriet suspects Danny Ratliff, who was Robin’s playmate of being his murderer.
Harriet’s grandmother Edie and her sisters, despite being elderly women, are set in the roles they established years ago, of being the ‘bossy one’ or the ‘daydreamer’ or the ‘man magnet’ in the family. The sisters take pleasure in annoying each other in the most effective ways possible, and years after their father’s death, one of the sisters still sets herself up as being their father’s favourite child. The pecking order in Harriet’s family resonated with me, as my brother, sisters and I, despite having been adults for a long time, still fit into particular roles in our family, although to my parent’s credit, each of us grew up thinking we were the favourite child.
Harriet puts herself and Hely into some frightening and dangerous situations as she follows the Ratliffs, trying to find out more about them. Harriet isn’t a particularly likeable character, but you will be on the edge of your seat reading some parts of this book.
I wouldn’t say that I enjoyed The Little Friend, but I couldn’t stop reading it. I was disappointed by the ending as I like all loose ends to be tied up and this book did not resolve all of the mysteries which were raised, but that wouldn’t put me off reading another book by Donna Tartt. I’ll keep looking out for The Goldfinch.