Little Children: A Novel

Little Children - Tom Perrotta I came to this book not knowing the author and unaware of the movie (I inadvertently gave up going to movies when I had kids), so I approached it fresh. I enjoyed it.After I finished the book and read the reviews, I learned that the title is supposed to refer to the immaturity of the adult characters. Oh! I thought the title was meant to place the book in that time of life when the immense burden of raising a toddler makes one a long for the freedom to make a bad decision. Personally, I found that after a few years of the exact same set of tedious micro-demands every day, I really did begin to wish I could drastically change my life in a completely selfish way. Of course I never would, but wouldn't it be fun if I could still be the kind of person who might walk up to a handsome stranger in the park and kiss him? Who doesn't think that kind of thing while stuck in the park watching a toddler go down the slide for the 47th time? Ugh, I guess I am one of the Little Children then.The fact that I found the Sarah character dizzyingly familiar means that a) I am a stereotype, and b) I didn't notice that this book was supposed to be funny. Not having found it sharp or funny makes me think I am part of the punchline, like if I had watched Election and thought it was a nice movie about a girl running for student body president. Oops, I guess?In my opinion, people are stretching the novel when they think it is critical of suburbia. I think the setting influences the specific decisions that the characters make, but at heart, this book is about people making impulsive decisions because they are unhappy. People grapple with temptation everywhere. The bad options available to people who live downtown might be more exciting, but that's because those people are often freer (mostly, in my opinion, because they don't have little children). I don't think that living in a suburb or being a parent makes a person's desperation or reaction to temptation inherently mockable. I did not sense an anti-suburban sentiment in the novel, and I think that some readers and critics are projecting their own prejudices here. Those same critics, if the story had been about a hip young thing who started using drugs, would not have felt the novel was condemning trendy downtown urban centres.But, that's just my reading. It's probably a sign of a good book that it can be understood in different ways. And who knows, maybe in 15 years I will look back at this time in my life and see the hilarity of living in a suburb and being a full-time parent. ;-)