Little Darlings by Melanie Golding
Genres/Descriptors: mystery/thriller; horror
Publication: April 30th, 2019
Check it out on Goodreads
What’s it about?
Lauren Tranter is exhausted from caring for her newborn twins, but that’s not the worst of her problems. In the hospital, after giving birth, she saw something unbelievable: a woman, trying to steal away Lauren’s babies and replace them with inhuman creatures. No one else saw the woman, and no one believes Lauren. They tell her it’s sleep deprivation, and she just needs rest.
After bringing the babies home, Lauren is constantly afraid that the woman from the hospital will make another attempt, so she basically locks herself and the twins inside and refuses to leave her house. Finally, about a month after giving birth, she goes out with the babies and takes them to a park. Then, her worst nightmare becomes reality: her babies are taken. When they’re found, Lauren knows there’s something wrong. She knows the babies that were returned to her are not her children.
No one else notices the change, but Lauren is willing to do anything–anything–to bring her own babies back. If she’s wrong, though, she might be making a terrible mistake in her desperation.
I almost stopped reading this within the first 10% because it had something in it that’s a trigger for me: descriptions of childbirth and childbirth complications, as well as the aftermath of giving birth. I don’t have many, when it comes to media, but this one is pretty much the only one that always gets to me and sends me into an anxiety attack. I won’t go into why it’s an issue for me because it’s hard to explain, and that’s not the point of this review anyway. I just wanted to mention it, for anyone else out there who has issues with that kind of content.
Once I got past that part, I could hardly put this book down. I loved how creepy the beginning was, with the woman Lauren saw in her hospital room. The woman wanted Lauren to swap one of their babies (one of Lauren’s to her, one of hers to Lauren), but if Lauren didn’t choose one to exchange, the woman threatened to take both of Lauren’s babies and replace them with her own. Obviously, Lauren freaks out. She locks herself and the twins in the bathroom and calls the police. However, when help arrives, they find only Lauren, and no sign of anyone else.
Everything takes off from there. Lauren’s husband and the doctors chalk up her experience to sleep deprivation and the trauma from the birth complications. I think later it’s alluded that she might have PPD (postpartum depression) or postpartum psychosis.
I loved most of this book, because I was never really sure what the heck was actually going on. Normally, I don’t really like it when a story uses mental illness (or the possibility of a mental illness) as a plot device, but it worked in this book because nothing was certain. Lauren could have been dealing with delusions and hallucinations, or this could have been a folklore-inspired supernatural story. I’m inclined to believe the latter, because of a few things that happened, but I really enjoyed the ambiguity. I feel like that added something to the story, because even we (the readers) can’t tell if what Lauren is experiencing is real or not.
Another thing I really liked were the folkloric quotes at the beginning of some chapters. I’ll definitely be looking up some of the sources cited for those, because I’m trash for darker folklore and fairy tales 😛
I felt so bad for Lauren, from the beginning. She went through so much (physically and mentally/emotionally), pretty much all on her own. Her husband was a whiny, self-absorbed asshole (he reminded me so much of my friend’s ex-husband, yikes), and he definitely didn’t help matters, at all. But, he was a believable character, which is terrifying. (If you read this book and see your husband in Patrick, consider contacting a divorce lawyer.)
Throughout the story, only one person doesn’t write off Lauren’s experience as a figment of her imagination: DI Harper (I’m blanking on her first name). She has her own reasons for being drawn to Lauren and her story, but at least she makes an effort to figure out what the heck is going on. I didn’t really like Harper’s backstory (which was vague), but I did mostly enjoy her as a character. Her thoughts about being attracted to men and women were pretty relatable, and I was kind of rooting for her and Amy (a reporter) getting together.
I wish we’d gotten more time with Amy, honestly, because I thought she had potential to be a really interesting character. She was mostly only used for gathering information for Harper, though. That said, what she and Harper found was really interesting, and I want to talk about it, but spoilers. *sigh* Let’s just say that they found some things that made it seem like what Lauren was going through was definitely supernatural, but something else that made it seem like Lauren was hallucinating or something.
The ending wasn’t my favorite, but it was alright. DI Harper discovers something that ties several things from the story together…or not. That’s where the ambiguity really comes in. It could be a coincidence, it could be that Lauren was aware of some local historical and folkloric things, or it could all be a supernatural thing. You decide!
Basically, I really liked this book. It was somewhere between a supernatural and psychological horror/thriller story, heavily influenced by folklore and fairy tales, and I want more books like this one! I don’t read and love many thrillers (I want to, I just haven’t found many that are my “thing”), but this one has landed Melanie Golding on my list of authors to watch, and I can’t wait to see what she writes next.
I gave it 4 out of 5 stars
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
I received an eARC from the publisher via NetGalley.