cover image Little Monsters

Little Monsters

Adrienne Brodeur. Avid Reader, $28 (320p) ISBN 978-1-982198-10-7

Memoirist Brodeur (Wild Game) sets this shimmering novel in the “white-hot mess” of summer 2016. Adam Gardner, a stodgy and sleepless oceanic research scientist on Cape Cod, is not looking forward to his upcoming 70th birthday. In a decisive moment, he stops taking his lithium—prescribed for his bipolar disorder­—in hopes that without the medication he will unlock the secret to how whales communicate with each other. Brodeur alternates Adam’s story with those of the son and daughter he’d raised on his own after his wife died prematurely. Ken is a shrewd businessman and political hopeful hobbled by his pomposity, while Abby is a struggling artist. Both are highly esteemed by their father. By the time of Adam’s birthday party, he’s become newly inspired and “hyperaware” of his life and surroundings. What was supposed to be a normal family event crumbles beneath the weight of hidden animosities, secrets, lies, and buried childhood trauma, all of which play out amid the festivities. Sound character development and a keen sense of place add to Brodeur’s astute portrayal of the turbulence between the siblings and their spouses, and the prose renders Adam’s magical thinking with precision (“Adam felt certain that every book he’d ever read, every piece of art that had ever moved him, every conversation, creature, curiosity, and concept he’d encountered in his lifetime would align like cherries in the slot machine of his mind”). With this intricate story, Brodeur distinguishes herself as a novelist of the first rank. (July)