The author of The Effects of Light returns with a novel about Saskia, a woman haunted by events that unfolded during her difficult teenage years at a lakeside commune called Home led by Abraham. Two decades later, Saskia's carefully walled life is torn open by letters to threaten to reveal what she and her friends at Home did—unless they all return to the scene of the crime.
Fierce Little Thing is written in beautiful prose, with a winding narrative of alternating timelines. The story is captivating, thoughtful, and tense, a great read for those who enjoy psychological thrillers and complex puzzles. Highly recommended.
Deaths—accidental, deliberate, shrouded in confusion—swirl through this intriguing and occasionally maddening novel, Beverly-Whittemore’s fifth. A murder mystery, a character study, an exploration of guilt and responsibility, an account of a utopian community gone awry: Fierce Little Thing takes on so much that at first it’s unclear what it wants to be. But the clues are there, scattered like bread crumbs, if you follow them carefully ... There is a lot to sort through. In dozens of alternating chapters, some less than a page long, Beverly-Whittemore unfurls the past and the present in parallel narrative lines, starting from Will’s death in one timeline and from the much later knock on Saskia’s door in the other. This device can work in the story’s favor, with one chapter complementing the next, or it can attenuate the tension with extraneous logistical details ... There are so many lovely moments in the book, beautiful passages of writing that speak to Beverly-Whittemore’s empathy and lyrical powers of description ... The book can plod at times, especially in its descriptions of the not-always-interesting residents of Home ... Saskia...is a fascinating character ... Whipsawed by this new information, and by an aftermath that softens what could have been a daringly bleak ending, we’re left unsure how to feel about what has happened.
... an ambitious, mesmerizing coming-of-age story ... Sure, they’re being blackmailed to return there, but Beverly-Whittemore crafts the tension so spectacularly that it is difficult to ignore the pull of Home, and the friendships and families that were built there. This is a character-driven, slow-burn thriller, but it is creatively structured and just eerie enough to keep you glued to its pages ... The first half dragged a bit, and compared to the shocking finale, it appeared that Beverly-Whittemore was overcompensating. She is tremendously skilled at evoking a sense of place and a sensation of horror, but her more drawn-out chapters felt like they were lacking the confidence that came later in the book. Nail-biting, moody and every bit as compelling as the cult leader at its center, Fierce Little Thing is a powerful coming-of-age tale about the ways that we are forever changed by the traumas, lies and betrayals of our youth.