Set in Iowa and Minnesota in the 60s and 70s, Little Miseries is a Midwestern Gothic where sometimes the misery is just that--little--and sometimes it is epic and yawning, capable of swallowing every childhood memory. There are the miseries the Castles will talk about--old family lore about a great, great, great uncle who was split in two while connecting railroad cars--and the misery none of them will face. There are days at the lake, placid except for inexplicable tension the parents won't address and the three Castle children don't have names for. There are stories about sex and gore at cocktail parties, around bonfires, at sleepovers, in classrooms, and in the newspaper. Everyday growing pains are shadowed by the abduction of a local girl, reports of a massacre of nurses, and the harm done by strangers and by those who are charged to care for children. To survive childhood is to survive all of these miseries and tragedies, because growing up means waking up to a world that can be random and brutal.
With some thematic overlap with Rick Moody's The Ice Storm or if Sally Draper from Mad Men got to tell her side of the story, Little Miseries is set in a time and place when parents didn't talk much to their children but they certainly talked around them--while dipping into whiskey or rum punch, whether on a long drive, on the beach, or in the comfort of their own home. Little Miseries is a tribute to what it means to come into awareness, to be a part of a family unit, and to bear responsibility for those you loved and who have been harmed along the way.
About the Author
Before Little Miseries, Kimberly Olson Fakih wrote two works of fiction for children, High on the Hog (1992) and Grandpa Putter & Granny Hoe (1991), as well as the lexicon, Off the Clock (1994) and The Literature of Delight, a guide to funny books for kids. She worked in publishing for many years, as a freelance reviewer at the New York Times and elsewhere, Kirkus Reviews, and currently a senior book review editor at School Library Journal. She is an Iowa-born, Minnesota-raised, and permanent New Yorker.
"The book... shows how catastrophic the secret world of grown-ups can truly be on the delicate web that is a family... it shows Fakih as a gifted chronicler of children's helplessness and familial angst." -- Kirkus Reviews
"[In] this sharp depiction of a Midwestern girl's coming-of-age... Fakih's vivid depictions of Kimmy's adolescent dilemmas blend nostalgia for the period with a visceral sense of her protagonist's pain." -- Publishers Weekly
Praise for Kimberly Olson Fakih: "Fakih offers a refreshing and often humorous child's-eye view of the world..." -- School Library Journal
Praise for High on the Hog: "...Fakih's characters are leading fully examined (and discussed) lives; but though her narrative is leisurely, it holds interest with its unexpected flashes of humor and its engaging evocation of the Heartland and some of its sons and daughters, as well as the tantalizing mystery. A beautifully constructed book, rich in offbeat descriptions and exchanges that leave room for just the kind of serendipitous insights that 'GS'--who does turn up--extols." -- Kirkus Reviews
Praise for Grandpa Putter & Granny Hoe: "...It's all amusingly recorded in Fakih's briskly lilting narrative and neatly cadenced dialogue. ... meanwhile, the grands' bickering makes a comical stand-in for the more bitter conflicts children endure between parents or siblings." -- Kirkus Reviews