Thursday, September 10, 2020


Holy cats, what a corker. I went into This Little Family semi-blind, knowing the basic premise. No real spoiler here, since it hits you on the side of the head in the opening. Marie and her family sit around the breakfast table, dead, Marie having poisoned her husband Laurent and their young son Thomas.

Little Thomas didn't have time to finish his stewed apple. His mother hadn't given him the slightest chance...Few people stumbling across these three ashen bodies could have imagined the warm laughter filling the room just moments before the tragedy occurred.
Of course the mind jumps immediately to the question of what could push a mother to murder her own baby. Marie must have been temporarily insane. Nope. Ines Bayard states up front that Marie had "contemplated killing her son before, several times and in different ways. She was very determined." So Marie must simply be a monster. But after setting the gruesome scene, Bayard expressly warns against stepping too quickly in the sinking sand of  judgment:

Before any revelations that might invite the first verdicts, let's take a moment to appreciate the figure of this dead woman surrounded by her loved ones, the only one of the three to have remained upright.

After this passage, Bayard jumps back in time to when and how Marie and Laurent met, their lives together and their decision to have a child. What I will not spoil is the catastrophic event that sets Marie on the course that will end up where we started. Some may be averse to a story that begins with the end, but I rather like it and Bayard did a fantastic job of it. So good a job it was infinitely difficult to read yet impossible to set aside.

Watching Marie spiral as those around her are by turns concerned, clueless and lied to is fascinating and maddening. Marie's state can be summed up thusly: "Surrounded and alone, supported and abandoned by everyone." By the end, even as we know horror is coming, we can't help but feel for Marie, despite the hand she has in her own demise.

This debut really knocked my socks off, especially with a difficult premise to pull off. Bayard's next outing will definitely be on my list.

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About Malcolm Avenue Review

I was lucky enough to be born and raised in a nifty, oak-shaded ranch house on Malcolm Avenue, a wide-laned residential street with little through traffic, located amid the foothills of Northern California. It was on that street and in that house I learned most of my adolescent life lessons, and many grown-up ones to boot. Malcolm Avenue was "home" for more than thirty years.

It was on Malcolm Avenue, through and with my family and the other families that made up our neighborhood of characters, that I first learned about and gained an appreciation for the things I continue to love the most to this day: music, animals, photography, sports, television/movies and, of course, books.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that life on Malcolm Avenue. It gave me a sense of community and friendship, support and adventure. For better and worse, life on that street likely had the biggest impact on the person I've become. So this blog, and the things I write here, are all, at their base level, a little bit of a love letter to Malcolm Avenue.


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