cover image Little Nothing

Little Nothing

Marisa Silver. Blue Rider, $27 (352p) ISBN 978-0-399-16792-8

Silver’s (Mary Coin) latest novel reads like a fairy tale, following two characters in a time and place that may be a century ago, and may be Europe. Pavla is born a dwarf with a lovely face. Danilo is a tinkerer indentured to a charlatan, Dr. Smetanka, in order to repay a family debt. Pavla’s aging parents bundle her onto a wagon and into the evil arms of Smetanka, seeking a cure. Smetanka orders the handy Danilo to build a moving table that becomes an instrument of torture, transforming Pavla into the first of her several incarnations. Smetanka forces Pavla on stage with Danilo as part of his freak show, though their pantomime is also a love story of sorts. Each actor loves the other, but neither has the self-confidence to declare it off stage. One tragedy after another separates the star-crossed lovers in a strange series of incidents and reincarnations. Pavla serves to remind readers of the moral of the story, that a good soul can find transcendence in the face of unbearable odds. And in Danilo readers will recognize their own longing for transcendence and meaning as he transforms himself through pain and sorrow into a man of courage and ingenuity. Agent: Henry Dunow, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner. (Sept.)