Little Nothing by Marisa Silver

Little Nothing by Marisa Silver
On Sale Date: September 13, 2016
Fiction, Literary, Fairy Tales
Folk Tales, Legends & Mythology
Ages 18 And Up, Grades 13 And Up
Blue Rider Press, 352 pages
Source: Publisher
My Rating: 4 Stars

In an unnamed country at the beginning of the last century, a child called Pavla is born to peasant parents. Her arrival, fervently anticipated and conceived in part by gypsy tonics and archaic prescriptions, stuns her parents and brings outrage and scorn from her community. Pavla has been born a dwarf, beautiful in face, but as the years pass, she grows no farther than the edge of her crib. When her parents turn to the treatments of a local charlatan, his terrifying cure opens the floodgates of persecution for Pavla.

Little Nothing unfolds across a lifetime of unimaginable, magical transformation in and out of human form, as an outcast girl becomes a hunted woman whose ultimate survival depends on the most startling transfiguration of them all.  Woven throughout is the journey of Danilo, the young man entranced by Pavla, obsessed only with protecting her. Part allegory about the shifting nature of being, part subversive fairy tale of love in all its uncanny guises, Little Nothing spans the beginning of a new century, the disintegration of ancient superstitions, and the adoption of industry and invention. With a cast of remarkable characters, a wholly original story, and extraordinary, page-turning prose, Marisa Silver delivers a novel of sheer electricity.

Sometimes you open a book, and it opens doorways…

Lush and haunting, Marisa Silver’s LITTLE NOTHING blends fairy tale and folklore into an adventurous story. It begins ordinarily enough, with the birth of a baby girl, yet becomes a tale of magic and transformation. Silver’s imaginative prose blurs the lines of reality, softening the story's jagged edges - creating a twilight realm of possibilities. A Grimm story just for adults with an unlikely protagonist whose heroine’s journey is unforgettable. 

This is the story of Pavla, a child born to peasants who after years of unsuccessful attempts to conceive - resort to a gypsy’s remedies, whose arrival is met  with high anticipation … only she is born mysteriously tiny, a dwarf of beauty and of minuscule size much to the surprise and horror of her parents. What occurs after, is Pavla’s journey to discover identity, love, and what it means to be human. 

LITTLE NOTHING takes bits and pieces of fairy tale and folklore to tell the beauty and evil, the hope and heartbreak of Pavla’ story. I was immediately hooked from the first few pages as Pavla fights her way out of the birth canal, while her mother calls forth every known curse and the midwife delivers this shocking baby. My heart went out as mother and father’s disdain and superstition turns to unconditional if at times imperfect, love. 

Born into a cruel and suspicious world, Pavla is at first shunned by her village but overcomes their fears with her remarkable intelligence and courage. She defies tradition and endears herself to all those around her. But the newfound safety and innocence she has are shattered when her parents, fearful of losing her, submit her to Dr. Smetanka’s hellish treatments in hopes of curing her dwarfism. Added by his young and naive assistant, Danilo, the experiment cures her but changes Pavla in other unexpected ways. Pavla becomes the Wolf Girl and finds herself indentured to the local freak show where she is tormented and abused - both mentally and physically. 

All is not lost, though, our Pavla has sharp teeth and once again fights against her destiny into that of her own making. Added by her unlikely ally, the guilt-ridden assistant Danilo who has fallen in love with Pavla, they begin parallel journies that will dip them into the fires of change.

This is a love story on many levels. Between mother and child. Father and daughter. Man and woman. Love and acceptance of oneself.  It is a story of redemption and identity. It is powerful and it is magical.