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Thursday, March 9, 2017

Little Deaths by Emma Flint *(Audio- Unabridged)

Little Deaths
by Emma Flint
read by Lauren Fortgang & Graham Halstead

Hachette Audio
  • ISBN-13: 9781478969051
  • ISBN-10: 1478969059
  • Publisher: Hachette Books


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Emma Flint's debut novel "Little Deaths" begins by spoiling it's own narrative...with Ruth Malone sitting in jail. Flint then takes listeners back 2 years to when the Malone's were embroiled in a messy divorce with each filing for custody of their two small children. Ruth Malone does NOT fit into the proper cutout of a 1960's woman and mother. Ruth is anything but the expected Betty Crocker-Ma Walton lady. Ruth is divorced, has a lil' black book of male companions, works as a cocktail waitress, wears too much makeup, her heels are too high, and she smokes and drinks. She lives with her children in Queens, NY surrounded by yakers that know more about your business than you do. These ladies stare with unforgiving, accusing eyes and pass judgements with quick lashes of their loose tongues. When the Malone children are reported missing police, reporters, and tabloids descend on the story like vultures on a free meal. The detectives are convinced of Ruth's guilt and fully anticipate a confession. When Ruth continues to protest her innocence the lead detective goes so far as to take Ruth to the crime scene where her little girl lies dead amid garbage. Ruth doesn't break. If she is innocent, the cruelty she has endured from those sworn to protect and serve is beyond description.

Ruth knows how to attract men and get them to fall for her. She is quite used to men being obsessed with her. But, it was always innocent in Ruth's well made-up eyes. She doesn't grieve the way she is expected. She doesn't cry in-front of the cameras. One reporter sees through the sensationalized story. But quickly falls under Ruth's spell. He's absolutely obsessed with Ruth and sees the two of them building a life together when she is released from prison.

The beginning of the book held my attention and I was fully invested in the story. I found Ruth to be a sympathetic character, but as a Mom, maddening at the same time. The murder of children is always heart wrenching and it is no different here. When the truth is finally told of how these children met their demise I was seething with anger. Then fast forward to being paroled and an ending that leaves a lot on the table. If Ruth is truly innocent, the case is unresolved. Will there be a follow up book that allows Ruth's vengeance to be played out? Or do we just imagine Ruth out there living her life somewhere?

Little Deaths is a good book. I don't think it is great. But, as a reader that loves 60's noir I'm glad I listened to it. The narrators really saved this book for me. Fortgang and Halstead are successful narrators in their own right. Each brings a set of voice inflections, tones, and mannerisms that make even the thinnest characters enjoyable. Awesome job narrating!

Happy Reading,


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If Emma Flint's Ruth Malone sparks your interest - check out the true story it was based on.

Reading Group Guide: 

  1. How would you describe the sense of place in Little Deaths and how does the novel present the world of 1960s New York?
  2. What were your first impressions of Ruth, and how did your opinion of her evolve throughout the book? Did you like her? How much did you sympathise with her?
  3. To what extent did you feel Ruth was in control of her life? What pressures did you feel she was under from the other characters and –as a woman, and as a mother–from society as a whole?
  4. What did you make of Pete Wonicke and his obsession with Ruth? How did you feel his version of events differed from that reported by the wider media?
  5. Ruth struggles in her relationship with her mother and the other women in her neighborhood. What did you think about the relationships between the various female characters?
  6. What did you think about the portrayal of Devlin and the police force? Do you feel the case was investigated fairly or unfairly, and why?
  7. The novel explores love in many forms, from parental to romantic to obsessive. How far did you feel the characters and their actions were affected by love?
  8. Little Deaths is set in the 1960s, so news and gossip play out person to person and in the newspapers. How different do you think this would be today, with social media and 24 -hour news coverage?
  9. How much did you feel that Ruth was trapped by her social circumstances or the era in which she lived? Did her story feel of its time, or could you see parallels with more recent cases?
  10. Were you surprised by the ending? Did you feel that Little Deaths was ultimately a tragedy, or did you find some hope and redemption in its final pages?

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