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"Little Monsters" | Reviewed by Pat Sainz

Family secrets form the basis of “Little Monsters,” an engrossing contemporary psychological novel about Adam Gardner, a renowned oceanographic research scientist, and his two children.

Adam’s children, now adults, are high achievers, but they have been damaged by their father’s occasional bipolar episodes. As a result of their father’s behavior, and the ensuing dysfunction, the children were often left alone in their Cape Cod home on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean.

Ken Gardner is on the verge of great wealth with the prospective development of a group of nationwide senior living facilities. Abby Gardner, Ken’s younger sister, is soon to be featured on the cover of a prestigious art magazine, featuring her paintings that reflect the beauty of the environment surrounding their oceanside home.

All the Gardeners harbor secrets and resentments. As “Little Monsters” unfolds, their sad and traumatic experiences come to light with new clarity and chilling results.

Ken, bullied and mistreated as a child, never overcomes his insecurity even as he has matured into “Kennedy-like” handsomeness. He has political aspirations. His childhood secrets, soon to be exposed, threaten to destroy all he has built in his family and professional life.

Abby has her own secrets. Her darkest and most crushing experiences are on display in her latest painting. She plans to unveil her newest art project and reveal all through her painting at her father’s upcoming 70th birthday party. Her entire family will be affected. She doesn’t care.

Plagued with mental illness, Adam’s continuous need for adulation, his despair over the premature death of his wife, and his ambivalence toward his children have set the stage for an unsettling climax to be played out at his birthday extravaganza. He has insisted on the party so that the 200 guests can laud his accomplishments.

When everybody is at the breaking point, another family member exposes Adam’s past duplicitous behavior. This new revelation tips the family towards near destruction. Healing, at least for some of the family members, occurs following the chaos at the party.

This compelling book isn’t a typical “beach read” because of the subject matter, but reading this book on a beach would add to the appreciation of gorgeous scenery and sunsets common to oceanside settings so aptly and beautifully described throughout the novel.

Adrienne Brodeur is the author of a memoir, “Wild Game,” and a novel “Man Camp.” She also writes for renowned magazines and newspapers.

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