‘Little Deaths’ by Emma Flint is mesmerizing

By OLINE H. COGDILL, Associated Press

Little Deaths, Emma Flint’s mesmerizing debut, works well as a look at misogyny, gossip, morals and the rush to judge others when a child goes missing.

The novel opens with Ruth Malone in prison, convicted of killing her two children, Frankie, almost 6 years old, and Cindy, age 4. Ruth was the immediate suspect — single mothers were an anomaly in 1965, especially those who work as a cocktail waitress.

Most neighbors in her working-class area of Queens, New York, shunned Ruth for defying convention by leaving her seemingly hard-working, faithful husband, Frank. The police, especially Sgt. Charlie Devlin, are even more dubious about Ruth when they find her trash overflowing with empty liquor bottles, a suitcase full of letters from men, many of them married, and provocative clothing strewn around her apartment. That she’s out drinking and dancing days after the deaths of her children further cements their disgust and their belief that she’s guilty.

After Ruth’s conviction, cub reporter Pete Wonicke begins to wonder if she was convicted because of her character, rather than real evidence.

Author Emma Flint captures the loneliness, struggles and ennui of the residents of working-class Queens in the mid-1960s, especially the women who, for the most part, are stay-at-home moms.

While Flint bases her novel on the real case of Alice Crimmins and her controversial conviction, she turns Little Deaths into a poignant look at a woman fighting for her emotional independence, who keeps her grief, heartbreak and frustrations deep inside her soul.