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Excerpt from Little Deaths by Emma Flint, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Little Deaths

by Emma Flint

Little Deaths by Emma Flint X
Little Deaths by Emma Flint
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2017, 320 pages
    Oct 2017, 320 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez
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Print Excerpt


No matter how she views the events after that first day, the day itself is always a long one in her mind. There were hours of waiting: in the morning, at home, before Cindy. And afterward at the police station, in anonymous rooms with plastic chairs where she was left alone with her grief and with the horror of it all. With no one to answer her worst fears about Frankie. And then hours of questions from them, and still no one would answer her, reassure her. They just kept asking the same questions again and again.

Devlin and another cop took turns. She answered mechanically. What did these questions matter, now? What did any of it matter now?

Finally, they let her go. Frank was in the foyer, pacing, his hand in his hair, waiting for her.

"Ruthie . . . oh God, Ruth."

She couldn't look at his soft, leaking face, so she let him fold her in his arms and sank against him, exhausted.

It was after eleven when they reached the apartment. He wanted to come in, to rehash all the questions they'd been asked, the answers they'd given. She sighed and told him she was tired. He frowned and then he just nodded and cleared his throat, and then he drove away.

The door of the apartment opened before she had time to raise her key and her mother was there. Ruth looked at her, at her hard, lined face, at her hollow eyes, felt the memory of a thousand grievances and arguments rise inside her like vomit.

Ruth shut the door carefully and quietly, and then leaned her head back against it and let her shoulders drop, and closed her eyes. Finally she could weep. Even now she remembers the sweet relief of being able to let go in front of a woman who had seen the worst of her all her life. How it felt like cool water after the heat of the day.

Her mouth opened and she sobbed and the tears dripped from her face, and her sobs became wails. She howled like a dog until her throat was raw and a strand of saliva trailed from her lip. She wiped at it savagely and thought how she must look: smudged and blotched and swollen. Drooling. And for a while she did not care.

Her mother took her in her arms for the first time since she was a child, rubbed her back and shushed her in a way she hadn't done in twenty years. And then Ruth let her own arms creep around that thin, bent body.

Her mother guided her to the sofa. "Hush, now. Hush, Ruthie. Hush. It will be all right. It's God's will, is all. Cindy's with Jesus now. Hush, Ruthie. Shush now. Shush."

The noises that her mother made were empty, meaningless, but somehow Ruth understood that she had to make them, and she let her. It was her way of giving back a little comfort in return. It was all she had.

After a while, her mother let go. Ruth lifted her own hand to her face to wipe away the tears, and then to rub away the beginning of a headache. She felt the warm, oily skin of her forehead and drew her arm back with a breath of disgust. She wiped her hand almost absently on her pants, stared without seeing at a crayon scribble on the wall, at Minnie, curled in the corner with one ear cocked.

And as she stared, her eyes gradually closed, her chin sank onto her chest. She slept tucked in like a bird, floating with the tides of her dreams, her feet scrabbling frantically to reach the bottom of a cold, dark lake.

She was woken what felt like seconds later by a clatter of crockery, heard the slap- slosh of the mop in the kitchen, and, for a brief soft moment, wondered why her mother was cleaning at that hour,

how she hadn't disturbed the kids. Her brain groped for clarity and was hit by the shock of memory.

The kids.

Her babies.

And she opened her swollen eyes on the horror of that quiet room.

She was shivering, feverish, her skin burning and her chest aching. She sat up, wrapped her arms around her body, trying not to think of her body, because that would mean thinking of the children it had carried and borne and fed and comforted and nursed and held and slapped and stroked and soothed and loved. It would mean thinking of where Frankie might be, and of something other than that present moment and the effort of breathing, and she was not capable.

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Excerpted from Little Deaths by Emma Flint. Copyright © 2017 by Emma Flint. Excerpted by permission of Hachette Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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