Lit­tle Beast

Julie De­mers Rhonda Mullins (Trans­la­tor)

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews - MEA­GAN LOGSDON

Coach House (MAY) Soft­cover $16.95 (148pp) 978-1-55245-366-7

Vig­or­ously po­tent, Lit­tle Beast haunts the in­ter­sec­tion of fairy tales with gritty re­al­ism.

When a full beard emerges on a name­less eleven-year-old girl’s face, she and her mother con­ceal the de­vel­op­ment from judg­ment in their tiny Que­be­cois moun­tain vil­lage. But sev­eral vil­lagers, in­clud­ing the mayor and the priest, in­evitably dis­cover their strange sit­u­a­tion, and the girl flees be­fore she can be at­tacked out of sheer su­per­sti­tion.

In the soli­tude of the sur­round­ing woods, she nav­i­gates hazards and rel­ishes the beauty of na­ture. A chance en­counter with a pair of hunters and their cap­tured bear forces her to re­con­sider her path.

The pro­tag­o­nist drifts through the Cana­dian woods like a wraith. A mag­i­cal qual­ity in­fuses her in­ner mono­logue; it is bor­der­line stream of con­scious­ness at times. There is an ap­pro­pri­ate child­like in­no­cence to her mus­ings, even in the face of death and hu­man cor­rup­tion. Rhonda Mullins ren­ders the lyri­cism well in her trans­la­tion, re­sult­ing in prose that is both tight and en­tic­ing.

Un­der­ly­ing the con­crete de­tails of the vil­lage, the moun­tain for­est, and the hu­man hunters who cross the girl’s path is a gen­tle sur­re­al­is­tic note. Amid mun­dane trap­pings, fan­tas­ti­cal el­e­ments re­side. The girl is on a self-im­posed quest—not to find some pow­er­ful ob­ject or de­feat a great evil, but to solve the puz­zle that is her­self, whiskers and all, and to rec­on­cile her­self to the rest of world.

As she wres­tles with the in­sin­cer­ity and cru­elty of hu­man­ity, she finds that she can­not ex­ist in iso­la­tion for­ever. De­spite the odi­ous­ness she ob­serves in the hunters and the faults she re­calls in her mother, she rec­og­nizes that oth­ers are a ne­ces­sity. It is in re­la­tion­ships, no mat­ter the kind, that growth is found.

Lit­tle Beast is a fierce yet sub­tle foray into the in­ter­play of fan­tasy and re­al­ity, prov­ing that great pro­fun­dity can some­times be found in small—and bearded—girls.

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