“She couldn’t feel her body, only a terrible absence, the babies like limbs ripped from her, missing parts, a wrongness so intense she wanted to hurt herself, to tear at her hair and skin.”
“Mother knows best” takes on a sinister new meaning in this unsettling thriller perfect for fans of Neil Gaiman and Grimms’ Fairy Tales.
Everyone says Lauren Tranter is exhausted, that she needs rest. And they’re right; with newborn twins, Morgan and Riley, she’s never been more tired in her life. But she knows what she saw: that night, in her hospital room, a woman tried to take her babies and replace them with her own…creatures. Yet when the police arrived, they saw no one. Everyone, from her doctor to her husband, thinks she’s imagining things.
A month passes. And one bright summer morning, the babies disappear from Lauren’s side in a park. But when they’re found, something is different about them. The infants look like Morgan and Riley―to everyone else. But to Lauren, something is off. As everyone around her celebrates their return, Lauren begins to scream, These are not my babies.
Determined to bring her true infant sons home, Lauren will risk the unthinkable. But if she’s wrong about what she saw…she’ll be making the biggest mistake of her life.
Compulsive, creepy, and inspired by some our darkest fairy tales, Little Darlings will have you checking―and rechecking―your own little ones. Just to be sure. Just to be safe. (Goodreads)
This left me breathless! The author has created every mother’s ultimate nightmare in this brilliant debut novel. I love the little bits of folklore and mythology intertwined with the story. It reminded me that fairy tales are essentially horror stories, too. The Dark Lady (I just call her/it that) gave me chills highly reminiscent of Koji Suzuki’s Sadako.
“She was a pulsating piece of meat full of inconvenient nerve endings and un-cauterised vessels. No intrigue here, no mystery, no power. She’d been deconstructed by nature, and then by man, then nature again, and finally by man—the two forces tossing her hand over hand, back and forth like volleyball.”
The story feels like a metaphor on postpartum depression. At the beginning I was brought back to the labor room. It perfectly captured the horror of childbirth, the post op, and the first few magical but very stressful days of having a newborn.
It speaks of a woman’s journey towards motherhood stripped off of the rainbows and butterflies, and with only the gory details laid bare. It’s about the ultimate sacrifice of not owning your body anymore, of having little strangers arrive in your life that you try so hard to love, the constant fear, and the huge weight of this lifetime of responsibility.
“She hadn’t loved them immediately, but she loved them after a spell. It seeped into her. Slowly. Like the love was something she’d been sipping at. Intoxicating. Accumulating. Snowballing. Slowly, quietly but unstoppably until she was quite drunk with it, and it was all she did.”
As a mother, I can say that this also helped me face the nightmares still hidden in my memories. I am grateful to have a wonderful husband who shares parenting tasks with me as equally as possible. But the truth is being a mother is a nightmare wrapped in sweet dreams. Is it worth it? Yes, but as this novel ultimately shows–it just may cost you your sanity.
Big thanks to NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books for giving me a copy of this wonderful book in exchange for an honest review.
Overall rating: 4/5⭐️
About the Author
Melanie Golding is a graduate of the MA in creative writing program at Bath Spa University, with distinction. She has been employed in many occupations including farm hand, factory worker, childminder and music teacher. Throughout all this, because and in spite of it, there was always the writing. In recent years she has won and been shortlisted in several local and national short story competitions. Little Darlings is her first novel, and has been optioned for screen by Free Range Films, the team behind the adaptation of My Cousin Rachel.