© 2024 KMUW
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

‘Little Monsters’ weaves family tension among the sandy dunes of Cape Cod

"Little Monsters" author Adrienne Brodeur.
Tony Luong
"Little Monsters" author Adrienne Brodeur.

The gorgeous oceanside setting on the cover of Adrienne Brodeur’s new novel screams “beach read.” But its title and synopsis hint at something deeper and perhaps even sinister.

“Little Monsters” is the story of the Gardner family of Cape Cod. As the novel opens, patriarch Adam is approaching his seventieth birthday. A brilliant marine biologist, Adam has managed bipolar disorder with medication for much of his life, but he decides to stop the meds in hopes of unleashing one last scientific breakthrough: He thinks he can decipher whale songs and perhaps even converse with the giant beasts in their own language.

Adam’s adult children, Ken and Abby, lost their mother when they were young and have been haunted by her absence ever since. Ken is an arrogant businessman with political ambitions; Abby is an artist who is harboring a new secret. In the family’s periphery are Ken’s wife, Jenny, who struggles with alcohol use; Ken’s therapist, George; and a woman with ties to the Gardners that she intends to make known … or maybe not. And if that web of family dysfunction wasn’t tense enough, the novel is set in the summer of 2016, amid broader cultural and political upheaval.

The story builds to its dramatic climax at Adam’s 70th birthday party, where his children battle for their father’s favor and the overall family tension reflects the August heat.

Early on in the novel, we learn that “Little Monsters” was Adam’s term of endearment for his children. Through the course of the story, we witness other monsters, large and small, that sink their claws into the seemingly perfect American family.

Suzanne Perez is a longtime journalist covering education and general news for KMUW and the Kansas News Service. Suzanne reviews new books for KMUW and is the co-host with Beth Golay of the Books & Whatnot podcast. Follow her on Twitter @SuzPerezICT.