Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Every Secret Thing

Laura Lippman
Fiction, Thriller

This novel cuts to the heart of a question we have yet to answer: How can children be killers? Two little girls, seemingly normal, encounter a baby in a carriage, all alone, and take her. The baby is not found alive, and when the truth comes out, the girls are imprisoned until they reach majority. The novel takes place after they are released - and another little girl disappears, leaving the reader to wonder if killers, however young, can be rehabilitated.

Lippman's novel is intriguing in that there are no truly sympathetic characters for most of the book. She introduces the mother of the abducted and slain infant, and she is shrewish and selfish, wanting the girls to suffer for what they did - and she doesn't care if they are rehabilitated or not. The single mother of the "nice girl" could have been merely an eclectic, principled teacher, but Lippman shows us how she looks down on her students and worries about how people will see her when her daughter comes home. She also displays an inability to understand her daughter's longing for popularity and acceptance, and never quite grasps why her daughter isn't more eclectic and unique - like herself. The "bad girl's" family isn't worth much text, but the little there is shows them to be the epitome of "white trash." And the girls themselves are an enigma, their years of incarceration making them withdrawn and difficult to connect with.

Somehow these unlikeable characters are made compelling through Lippman's prose, and the book is propelled toward the truth of the first baby's death. As in real life, however, there are few happy endings, and one wonders how lives so deceptively strong can be so fragile.


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