Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Review: Little Green by Loretta Stinson

She lay on her side afraid to move until the silence filled the dark. She focused on a tree trunk a few feet away. She knew she should be cold. She wasn't. She knew she should hurt. She didn't.

[. . . ]

A phrase she remembered played in her head, and she let it spin as she began walking. Keep on truckin'. You got to keep on truckin'. She repeated this phrase until she reached The Habit miles away. [pg 38 & 39]

Little Green by Loretta Stinson
Hawthorne Books, 2010
Fiction; 290 pgs

A woman once told me that every couple fights. She wasn't talking about a verbal argument. She meant the kind of fighting that involved hitting, pushing and hair pulling. Her mother had been a victim of domestic violence as was she. She did not know anything different. She loved her husband, and, while leaving him crossed her mind, she was too afraid of him and worried that she wouldn't be able to support her children without his help. Alcohol and drugs played a part in her husband's violent episodes and they helped numb her to get her through.

Domestic violence is a prevalent problem in our society. It affects men and women of all ages and social classes. Author Loretta Stinson brings home one such example in her book, Little Green. Janie Marek ran away from home when she was 14 years old. Her mother and father had died early in her life, leaving her in the care of her father's second wife. Janie took to the streets hoping for a better life. What she found was hardship and strife. At sixteen, Janie has learned the rules of living on the streets, and yet she still maintains a sense of hope that life will get better. She takes a job as a topless dancer and settles in a small Washington town for a short while, at least long enough to earn a little money. It is there she meets Paul Jesse, a drug dealer ten years her senior. They feel a connection that they both fight against, but, after tragedy strikes, the two give in.

At first life seems good. Janie and Paul get along well. She dreams of a future with him. Paul, on the other hand, is less sure. He's an independent spirit and likes his easy life. But he also cannot deny the love he feels for Janie. So, when she asks him if she can move in with him, he agrees.

As the story progresses, Paul's drug use spirals out of control and his violent rages increase. Janie is sure her love and influence will change him. She puts up with his behavior because she loves him . . . and later because she is afraid of him.

Author Loretta Stinson's writing is matter of fact. I instantly liked Janie and cared about her, but I never really got that sense of walking in her shoes that I look for when reading a novel. I was always just an observer--kept at a distance. I am having a hard time putting my finger on exactly why I felt that way. Was it me? Was it the book? I'm not sure. Despite that, the author did an amazing job of capturing the attitudes, thoughts and motivations of her characters as well as the realities of how drug abuse impacts not only the abuser, but those around him too. My heart broke for Janie, and even for Paul, as he descended further into his drug addiction. Even with all Janie went through, as broken as she was, her resilience is a testament to the human spirit as are the friends who stood by her through to the end.

Janie and Paul may be fictional characters, but their story is one shared by very real people. The novel is set in the late 1970's, however, it could very well be set today. Little Green is an important novel that is well worth reading.

Rating: * (Good +)

You can learn more about Loretta Stinson and her books on her website.

Source: Book provided by the publisher for review.

© 2010, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved.If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.


  1. Wow, this one sounds interesting. I have a difficult time reading about this topic, but it's worth it every now and then when the story is done well. I'll add it to my list.

  2. I love the depth of your reviews. This book sounds amazing if a bit difficult.

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  3. This sounds like a sad book, though it also sounds like it's a very good one as well. I love books that deal with the harder side of life, and that strive to make it realistic instead of glamorizing it, so this sounds like a book I would really get a lot out of. I really liked your review and am glad that you enjoyed the book. It is going to the top of my wish list after reading your thoughts on it. Thanks!!

  4. Sounds very challenging but honest and interesting - thank you for sharing


  5. Sorry to hear you didn't feel more connected to the characters. It's funny how that happens sometimes and you really can't put your finger on it. I've felt the same about a book and not been able to figure out why.

  6. I've read a couple of books lately where I had that sense of distance from the characters, and in the case of David Ebershoff's The Danish Girl, I think the author intended it. I wonder if that's the case with this novel too, since it sounds pretty intense! I'm intrigued, though. Thanks for the review, Wendy - I hadn't heard about this one before, but I'm glad I have now.

  7. I hadn't heard about this book before but your review has me intrigued! I love that cover. A bit more unusual. This sounds like another one for my list.

  8. All vices hurt your loved ones one day. I wonder if the author saw herself as an observer and that's why it comes off that way?

  9. Maybe the difficult subject matter kept you distanced. It's important to read about issues like this, but it's not always easy.

  10. Excellent review to be sure Wendy. I wonder at times why I'm not totally engaged with a character too. But like Kathy said maybe it was the subject matter???

  11. Great review, Wendy!
    I'm sorry that you didn't feel more connected to the characters. I'm quite intrigued with this book since it covers an important and a thought-provoking issue, though I'm not sure if I'd be in a hurry to read it. And I love the cover, it's so pretty.

  12. Christine - It really was interesting--and so realistic! The author clearly knew her topic.

    Library Cat - Thank you so much!

    Heather - It was sad, very sad. It wasn't all sad though, which was a good balance, I think.

    I especially liked how true to life the novel was. You comment about books like this being realistic as opposed to glamorizing the drugs and violence--that's spot on with this book. There was no glamor or white washing here.

    Hannah - It was definitely an interesting book.

    Kathleen - I hate it when I can't put into words how I'm feeling about a book or a character.

    Florinda - You know, it could be that the author intended it that way. And since it appears she was aiming for a tell-it-like-it-is approach, it makes sense.

  13. Iliana - Isn't the cover gorgeous? I do hope you get the chance to read this one.

    Jen - So true. Everything is connected and what we do definitely impacts those around us, good and bad. You make a good point about the author/observer perspective.

    Kathy & Staci - You may be right, but not because the subject matter is difficult. I've read books dealing with drug abuse and domestic violence issues as well as other difficult topics and not had the same problem with a book. If it is something personal, it's probably more my having difficulty keeping my professional side out of it. Given the matter of fact style of the writing, it could be that it made it harder for me to separate that side of who I am out.

    Melody - Thank you! I am glad I got the chance to read this one. It definitely was worth it.

  14. I haven't heard about this one but it does sound like it's worth giving a chance.

  15. Lisa - I am really glad I got the chance to read it.

  16. Loretta Stinson here author of Little Green! Thank you so much Bookish Kitty for your thoughtful review. I have to say writing Janie's character was the most difficult part of the whole book for me. I too experienced violence at the hands of someone I loved and wrote the book as my own kind of therapy. Janie is numb and has been through so much trauma she can't quite connect to her life until she finally leaves Paul. Maybe I did that emotional distance a little too well! Next book is all about mothers and daughters--and FOOD! Much more fun to write! Again, thank you!

  17. Loretta - Thank you so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment. Thank you too for more insight into Janie's character. It does add more dimension to her character when I think of her as being numb throughout the book. She had such a hard life.

    I am so sorry you had to suffer similarly to Janie. No one should have to. Books like yours bring hope and comfort to others who are in similar situations--and help those of us who haven't been through it personally as well in many different ways.

    I definitely am looking forward to reading your next book.


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