Little Children by Tom Perrotta is an adult novel dealing with the complexities of relationships, especially for families who are married with young children. It also deals with the issue of a paedophile moving into the town, and the reactions of the townspeople.
This book is an engrossing one that shows sympathy for many people’s actions, and the reasons behind them, a lack of intimacy when a child becomes the parent's main focus that can lead to an affair, a mother's exhaustion in the face of endless parenting of a child with no real support.
I think what I liked most about this book was the insights into characters- no one is perfect, but we are allowed to understand why they are that way, and the little flashbacks into character's memories that allow us a glimpse of this past. It is always so exciting to be told little stories from the past of a character that none of the other characters ever know. The university boyfriend who broke up with a character because she was too tall, things like that.
The characters are refreshingly imperfect, so instead of an annoying TV-series perfect world, we are presented with a view of reality, real people that we can relate to and identify with more than those plastic, ever perfectly dressed men and women of the TV world. We have mothers trying to deal with the demands of parenting, people trying to negotiate the minefields of their relationships.
This really is an adult novel, mostly because it deals with issues it would be difficult for younger people to understand, dealing with issues in marriages, raising children, etc. The issue of the paedophile is dealt with in a sensitive way. Ronald McGorvey has just got out of jail for revealing himself to a girl scout and moved back in with his mother. A sad case with no job and no life, it is hard to know whether to feel sorry for him or not as he alternately is seen to be bullied by the public and just be 'trying to live his life' while being ungrateful to his mother, and seemingly unrepentant. Also the shadow of a possible murder he was never convicted for hangs over his head. The moral question of how the public should treat this man is an interesting question that runs throughout the novel.
Little Children is a book for people that want real problems and issues in everyday life, not fantasy and escapism. I probably wouldn't recommend it to people who are considering getting married and having children, as it might put them off. I think that it might be comforting to those who are dealing with raising young children and the changes it causes to their relationships, as it might show them they are not alone in their problems.
Apparently this book was also made into a movie of the same title, and I find it interesting that the character of Sarah, who was not meant to be conventionally attractive, which helps us relate to her better as a normal woman, was played by Kate Winslet, who (while I think she is a wonderful actress) is really nothing short of beautiful. I find it very frustrating that Hollywood always finds it so important to sex up female characters, making them into something it is much more hard to relate to. She is meant to be a worn out mother, not a screen goddess.