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Little Children: A Novel Hardcover – March 1, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The characters in this intelligent, absorbing tale of suburban angst are constrained and defined by their relationship to children. There's Sarah, an erstwhile bisexual feminist who finds herself an unhappy mother and wife to a branding consultant addicted to Internet porn. There's Todd, a handsome ex-jock and stay-at-home dad known to neighborhood housewives as the Prom King, who finds in house-husbandry and reveries about his teenage glory days a comforting alternative to his wife's demands that he pass the bar and get on with a law career. There's Mary Ann, an uptight supermom who schedules sex with her husband every Tuesday at nine and already has her well-drilled four-year-old on the inside track to Harvard. And there's Ronnie, a pedophile whose return from prison throws the school district into an uproar, and his mother, May, who still harbors hopes that her son will turn out well after all. In the midst of this universe of mild to fulminating family dysfunction, Sarah and Todd drift into an affair that recaptures the passion of adolescence, that fleeting liminal period of freedom and possibility between the dutiful rigidities of childhood and parenthood. Perrotta (Election; Joe College; etc.) views his characters with a funny, acute and sympathetic eye, using the well-observed antics of preschoolers as a telling backdrop to their parents' botched transitions into adulthood. Once again, he proves himself an expert at exploring the roiling psychological depths beneath the placid surface of suburbia.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The New Yorker

The eponymous children in this satirical novel are actually adults who, chafing at the burdens of parenthood, try to re-create their unencumbered youth. Sarah, an overeducated young homemaker, likens her tantrum-prone daughter to a "brooding Russian epileptic" out of Dostoevsky, and pines for lost college days of feminism and bisexuality. While her husband orders used panties online, she has furtive sex with a stay-at-home dad whose repeated failure to pass the bar has earned him the contempt of his gorgeous wife. The humor is sometimes cruel, but Perrotta never betrays the complexity of his characters. For all Sarah's sins—neglecting her child, wallowing in romantic delusions—there's something almost brave about her refusal to join the supermoms drilling their toddlers with dreams of Harvard, and about her yearning for more than "a painfully ordinary life."
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1st edition (March 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312315716
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312315719
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1.3 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (324 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #683,707 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

134 of 145 people found the following review helpful By E. Bukowsky HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 13, 2004
Format: Hardcover
In Tom Perrotta's latest novel, "Little Children," the author focuses his microscope on the marital problems of suburban mothers and fathers with young children. Thirty-year-old Todd is a former jock and a blonde hunk dubbed "The Prom King" by the playground mothers. He is a stay-at-home dad who takes care of three-year-old Aaron while his gorgeous wife, Karen, works as a documentary filmmaker. Todd has failed the bar exam twice, as his wife reminds him repeatedly, and his prospects of ever becoming the family breadwinner seem dim. Sarah is a college graduate who is stagnating mentally as a stay-at-home mom. Her marriage to her businessman husband, Richard, is in the doldrums.
The other playground mothers watch in horror as Sarah strides up to Todd one day and kisses him the first time that they meet. Sarah arranges to "bump into" Todd and the two forge a strong bond that threatens their fragile marriages.
The characters in this book are out of touch with their spouses, themselves, and, at times, with reality. Although Perrotta's writing is often humorous, this book is not merely a lighthearted satire of suburban mores and modern marriage. There is much ugliness here, mostly centered on the townspeople's horrified reaction when a convicted sex offender moves in with his mother after a stint in prison. One bitter retired ex-cop named Larry engages in a personal vendetta to harass the ex-con and his aged mother. Todd goes along for the ride, and although he verbally protests, he never makes much of an effort to stop Larry from committing his horrible deeds.
"Little Children" is a brilliant and merciless look at the sterility of suburbia and at the dark emotions that threaten the characters' placid and predictable lives.
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67 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Hendry VINE VOICE on March 18, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Tom Perrotta's Little Children is, in a lot of ways, much like those cheese goldfish on the cover of the novel--addictive and easy to swallow. Unlike the goldfish, however, Little Children also contemplates larger issues. Perrotta is a master. Little Children is funny (laugh-out-loud at certain points), engaging, compelling while also being thought-provoking. I finished this book over two weeks ago, yet the characters and their decisions in the novel still haunt me. The main characters, Sarah and Todd, are two thirty-something suburban parents who are, for varying reasons, unhappy with their lives. Todd and Sarah meet at a town playground and from there, the relationship develops and pretty much serves as the unifying thread throughout the novel. Perrotta manages to create well-rounded, flawed characters with a sympathetic eye. We can somehow forgive them for their flaws and mistakes because we can understand why they do what they do. Little Children is truly an enjoyable and satisfying read--a rare thing. The ending is terrific. I thought there were one of two things that could happen at the end, and I wasn't sure which I preferred. Perrotta had a different idea and took the characters in another direction (a believable one) entirely. I recommend this novel very highly.
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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Gulley Jimson on May 17, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I've always been curious about what it must feel like for people who still consider themselves young to have children and settle into suburbia, into a life that just a few years earlier they would have thought bland and unexciting. Considering how widespread the experience of "settling down" is for people of a certain class, I've always been surprised that there haven't been more books written about this transition from youth to a more routine maturity. A review of Little Children in the New York Times made this seem like a book that was finally exploring this territory.
After gobbling this book up in two days, I'm afraid it doesn't really explore that strange transition; it really doesn't explore anything at all. It skims over the surface of too many characters and too many events, and uses that oldest of devices - an extramarital affair - to sustain interest, without arousing interest in much else. When reading Perrotta's excellent description of a football game, I think I understood why: Perrotta writes like a movie. His smooth, readable prose translates easily into images, the plots dovetail in a contrived and predictable way, and the entire plot of the book is split up into short scenes just like film narratives. This book would be incredibly easy to convert into a screenplay, and I'm sure someone's doing just that.
Like many writers whose first exposure to storytelling was through television and the movies, Perrotta seems to write more for the screen than the page. The problem with this is that he doesn't use the resources of the page, the most important of which is giving the characters a real interior life.
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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful By maravillosa99 on August 8, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I'm a loving mom to two boys (8 yrs old, 16 months old), married, work full-time, and have little time to read -- but I MADE time to finish this one. I recommend it especially to other parents of young children trying to do the marriage/house/kids suburban thing and finding it's not always all it's hyped to be. (And I suspect we are many!) Found myself identifying with Sarah as she tried to measure up to the moms on the playground, identifying with Kathy as she realized what was happening to her marriage, truly wondering what in fact was going to happen with Sarah and Todd (and although a bit disappointed by their decisions, I know most of us would do the very same thing)...and who could resist wanting to know what ends up happening to the panty-sniffer, the molester, Mary Ann, and the football team? I advise those reviewers who were offended by this book to get a dictionary and review the definition of "satire"...or just stick with the Nicholas Sparks books if you want non-offensive. As for LITTLE CHILDREN, what a cast and what a slice of (exaggerated, but basically accurate) reality.
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