cover image Little Miseries

Little Miseries

Kimberly Olson Fakih. Delphinium, $27 (240p) ISBN 978-1-953002-20-4

Children’s book author Fakih (High on the Hog) makes her adult debut with this sharp depiction of a Midwestern girl’s coming-of-age. Kimmy grows up in late 1960s Iowa surrounded by markers of her family’s former fortune as seed magnates. In a series of vignettes, Kimmy, her parents, and two siblings suffer a litany of bad experiences ranging from the quotidian (her mom forces her into dark clothes to “slenderize” her larger figure) to traumatic (a seemingly friendly man nearly kills all the children during an erratic boat trip). As well, Kimmy suspects her grandfather is sexually abusing her younger sister, but her chain-smoking, short-fused mother dismisses the concern. Fakih’s vivid depictions of Kimmy’s adolescent dilemmas blend nostalgia for the period with a visceral sense of her protagonist’s pain, as Kimmy fixates, without really understanding the details, on the real-life murder of Pamela Powers; longs for her mother to appreciate her; and crushes on a dad whose family she babysits for. Despite the lack of a central arc, each episode ably captures Kimmy’s grappling with her place in the world amid adult secrets. Though readers will find the structure lacking, the depiction of a teen navigating a confusing phase of life rings true. Agent: Mary Krienke, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Jan.)