A Huffington Post Book Club Suggestion • An O: The Oprah Magazine Fall Pick • A LitHub Book You Should Read This September • One of The Millions' "Most Anticipated" for 2016 • 2017 Ohioana Book Award Winner in Fiction
“Marisa Silver’s beguiling new novel Little Nothing is a powerful exploration of the relationship between our changeable bodies and our just as malleable identities…Silver’s storytelling skills are finely matched to her themes…meditative passages bloom with life.”
—Matt Bell, The New York Times Book Review
A stunning, provocative new novel from New York Times bestselling author Marisa Silver, Little Nothing is the story of a girl, scorned for her physical deformity, whose passion and salvation lie in her otherworldly ability to transform herself and the world around her.
In an unnamed country at the beginning of the last century, a child called Pavla is born to peasant parents. Her arrival, fervently anticipated and conceived in part by gypsy tonics and archaic prescriptions, stuns her parents and brings outrage and scorn from her community. Pavla has been born a dwarf, beautiful in face, but as the years pass, she grows no farther than the edge of her crib. When her parents turn to the treatments of a local charlatan, his terrifying cure opens the floodgates of persecution for Pavla. Little Nothing unfolds across a lifetime of unimaginable, magical transformation in and out of human form, as an outcast girl becomes a hunted woman whose ultimate survival depends on the most startling transfiguration of them all. Woven throughout is the journey of Danilo, the young man entranced by Pavla, obsessed only with protecting her. Part allegory about the shifting nature of being, part subversive fairy tale of love in all its uncanny guises, Little Nothing spans the beginning of a new century, the disintegration of ancient superstitions, and the adoption of industry and invention. With a cast of remarkable characters, a wholly original story, and extraordinary, page-turning prose, Marisa Silver delivers a novel of sheer electricity.
Silver's latest novel reads like a fairy tale, following two characters in a time and place that may be a century ago, and may be Europe. Pavla is born a dwarf with a lovely face. Danilo is a tinkerer indentured to a charlatan, Dr. Smetanka, in order to repay a family debt. Pavla's aging parents bundle her onto a wagon and into the evil arms of Smetanka, seeking a cure. Smetanka orders the handy Danilo to build a moving table that becomes an instrument of torture, transforming Pavla into the first of her several incarnations. Smetanka forces Pavla on stage with Danilo as part of his freak show, though their pantomime is also a love story of sorts. Each actor loves the other, but neither has the self-confidence to declare it off stage. One tragedy after another separates the star-crossed lovers in a strange series of incidents and reincarnations. Pavla serves to remind readers of the moral of the story, that a good soul can find transcendence in the face of unbearable odds. And in Danilo readers will recognize their own longing for transcendence and meaning as he transforms himself through pain and sorrow into a man of courage and ingenuity.