by Adam Klein
Tiny Ladies, by Adam Klein, is a rather unsettling book. To be honest though, books that are unsettling are always the most memorable. And I must admit that this is one of the best novels I’ve ever by read a relatively unknown author. What makes the book even more fascinating is that there is a soundtrack CD that goes along with it (there are a couple of free mp3 samples at Klein’s Band’s website [see below]).
The main character, Carrie, is a former junkie who is running from her past. She leaves the hustle and bustle of San Francisco for the quiet life of the Midwest and becomes a caseworker, helping people who are down on their luck get work. In a strange twist of fate, Carrie meets a young junkie by the name of Hannah, who will eventually show her the meaning of life.
Without giving too much of the plot away, Carrie is haunted and chased by her past, both mentally and physically, in the form of Victor, an ex-boyfriend junkie who she double crossed. Victor is practically insane and beyond caring about the difference between “right” and “wrong.” The haunting is three-pronged as her past addiction and negative childhood spends plenty of time in her head, along with the memory of Victor.
The suspense and latent desire in Tiny Ladies is masterful. On several different occasions, Klein exhibits a real talent for angst, making the downtrodden and depressing subject matter of this book come alive. The repressed sexual tension between Carrie and Hannah is also spectacular; many readers will find their relationship both appealing and ambiguous. There are many times when it seems like things will get hot and steamy between the two, and Klein keeps us guessing the entire time. His skill with description is also worthy of note, as the various scenery is quite vivid and easy to picture. His descriptions of shooting up and the dark side of addiction are frighteningly colorful and specific, and terribly depressing at the same time.
The only flaw with this work would have to be the exhaustive use of flashback and time shift. The novel has four basic time periods: Carrie’s childhood, Carrie’s adolescence, her drug addiction period, and the period after leaving San Francisco and her escape from Victor. The shift within these time frames is so frequent and varied that it confuses and convolutes what is otherwise a stunning piece of realistic fiction. At many points throughout the novel, I found it hard to know in what time it was set.
The bottom line is, though, that Tiny Ladies is a well-written, interesting, and fascinating look at a side of life few of us ever experience. Don’t read this if you can’t handle heavy subject matter, for it is not a light or easy read, by any stretch of the imagination. But if you can handle the darker side of life, then give Tiny Ladies a try; you won’t regret it.